Tourist industry on slow road to recovery

Swiss appear to be losing interest in skiiing, despite views like this in the Engadine (ST/swiss-image.ch) swiss-image Photograph by Robert Boesch

The tourist industry is optimistic that more holidaymakers will spend their vacation in the Swiss Alps this winter.

This content was published on November 10, 2004 - 16:20

But a stay in the Swiss mountains is still more expensive than in neighbouring countries, making mid to long-term growth uncertain. Coupled with that is the fact that the Swiss themselves are losing interest in skiing.

Experts are forecasting a two per cent increase in overnight stays in Swiss hotels this winter compared with the 2003-2004 season.

That comes after a four per cent increase registered in the 2004 summer season.

Kaspar Weber of the firm BAK Basel Economics, which was responsible for the forecast, says the figures show that the industry has been able to make a partial recovery since 2001.

The number of Swiss - who account for the lion’s share of hotel stays - is expected to increase by 0.9 per cent this winter, while the number of foreign guests is set to jump by three per cent.

BAK says the upward trend looks likely to continue next summer with a growth rate of 1.9 per cent compared with 2004, which saw a four per cent increase on the previous year.

Price obstacle

Launching its marketing campaign on Wednesday, Jürg Schmid, the head of the national tourist board, admitted that Switzerland still could not compete on price with neighbouring countries like Austria.

Analysts say this represents the largest obstacle to healthy growth.

And even if more Swiss are predicted to take a holiday in the Swiss Alps this winter, the tourist industry is failing to tap into the potential.

In a survey, only 38 per cent of Swiss said they were planning a holiday in the snow, and the Swiss Cable Car Association has recorded a five per cent drop over the past five years in the number of Swiss who ski regularly.

“The number of trips on cable cars and lifts dropped from 310 million to 249 million between 1998 and 2003,” the association’s Felix Maurhofer told swissinfo.

Downward trend

To stop the downward trend from snowballing, Maurhofer says the association has joined forces with Switzerland Tourism to promote skiing among Swiss youth.

The “Go on snow” campaign includes setting up snow ramps in cities where young people can make their first turns on skis.

The tourist industry is also faced with a decrease in the number of hotels in major resorts, which has led to supply problems in the key Christmas and February periods.

Many top resorts have fallen victim to property speculators who are converting hotels into apartments or building private chalets, few of which are let out to tourists.

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel in Zurich

In brief

A 2.1% increase in hotel nights is predicted for the winter season.

The figure is broken down into a 0.9% increase among Swiss guests and a 3% growth rate among foreign visitors.

38% of Swiss surveyed said they were planning a winter holiday and 84% of those said they would stay in the Swiss Alps.

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