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Tourist industry upbeat about winter

Tourism authorities are confident the winter season will bring in more foreigners to Switzerland.

(Photopress/Lenzerheide)

The national tourism marketing body, Switzerland Tourism, is optimistic that the industry's recovery is set to continue in the key winter season.

The industry is expected to see a further growth of 1.1 per cent in overnight stays this winter, following a 2.2 per cent increase in the first eight months of the year.

From January to August, the number of foreign tourists rose by 6.4 per cent. This more than compensated for the 2.7 per cent drop in Swiss – who on average account for about half of all overnight stays - holidaying at home.

Japan led the way among the most important countries for Switzerland's tourist industry. The Japanese increased their overnight stays by 11.5 per cent, with the British not far behind at 10.2 per cent.

There was a 0.9 per cent increase by Germans, who are the most important visitors after the Swiss.

Among emerging markets, China came out top, with the Chinese spending around 97 per cent more nights in Switzerland than they did over the same period in 2004.

Ski season

Visitors from abroad are also expected to lead the modest growth during the important ski season, making up for the lack of interest shown by the Swiss.

Foreign tourists are forecast to spend 1.5 per cent more nights in Swiss hotels and other types of accommodation this winter, compared with only 0.6 per cent by Swiss holidaymakers, according to economist Richard Kämpf of the Basel Economics (BAK) analysis centre.

Speaking in Zurich on Thursday at the launch of Switzerland Tourism's winter campaign, Kämpf said the tourist industry would not experience "explosive growth" over the next few years but that it was definitely in a sustainable "recovery phase".

He said Switzerland was benefiting from "positive global economic conditions" but said growth would remain modest due to the slow recoveries of key markets, such as Germany and Italy.

He cautioned that a further sharp rise in oil prices or an unusually warm winter could put paid to the upward trend.

Winter campaign

This year's winter campaign, "More winter", plays on the fears that many skiers have about the possible effects of global warming on their winter pastime.

"The single, most influential factor for choosing a destination is the ski resort's altitude," said Jürg Schmid, director of Switzerland Tourism.

The new campaign highlights the edge Switzerland has over its alpine neighbours. Schmid said Switzerland has 29 ski resorts located above 2,800 metres, which is more than Austria, France, Germany or Italy.

And he added that the ten highest Swiss resorts were on average 370 metres higher than their counterparts in neighbouring countries.

For the first time, Switzerland is marketing the winter season in Spain where it will advertise in newspapers and in China. It plans to enter partnerships with Chinese ski halls and winter resorts.

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel in Zurich

Key facts

The Swiss tourist industry generated SFr22.6 billion in income in 2004, accounting for 5.1% of the country's Gross Domestic Product.
Half of the income is made in the winter season, even though it is only four months long.
Among ski resorts, Zermatt draws the most winter guests with 687,679 overnight stays (winter 02/03).

end of infobox


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