Swiss tourist industry hit hard by lack of visitors from Asia
Switzerland Tourism predicts a 45 percent fall in hotel bookings in 2021, as travel restrictions continue to hinder tourism from Asia.
Closing the Asian market heavily impacted Swiss tourism
Martin Nydegger, chief executive of Switzerland Tourism, made the comments in an interview with SWI swissinfo, where he said that although other European destinations had mostly recovered due to the high number of domestic travellers, the lack of tourism from Asia has hit Switzerland the hardest. He said, “It might take up to two years until we reach the pre-pandemic overnight level of Asian visitors in Switzerland.”
Nydegger noted that Switzerland’s main strategy for attracting tourists in the past was to attract those from Asia. “Globalisation for me means only one thing: taking part in the growth in Asia,” was the claim, as 2019 saw Chinese visitors spend 1,8 million nights in Swiss hotels, an increase of 400 percent from 10 years earlier.
Tourists from India also hit a peak of 793.000 nights before the pandemic. Some of the most famous historical sites had started to cater to the market coming from Asia, most notably the Indian “Restaurant Bollywood ” on the top of Jungfrau mountain.
At one point in 2019, locals fretted that there were too many tourists coming to the country, citing a 12.000 strong Chinese tour that descended on the city of Lucerne. Now, hoteliers report that around 95 percent of customers over the last two years have been Swiss, a population that isn’t enough to fill Switzerland’s hotel capacity.
Tourism industry in Switzerland hopes for big years ahead
Throughout the pandemic, hotel stays and travellers from outside Switzerland have been rare. “Hotel overnight [stays] fell back to a level known only during the Second World War,” said Nydegger, who named 2020 as Annus Horribilis, or horrible year. He said that although travel corridors do exist to Switzerland, the market that Swiss tourism has aimed to attract remains stubbornly off-limits.
To those working in the industry, such as the hotel manager of the Kempinski Palace Engelberg Titlis, Andreas Magnus, there is a hope that demand in the years to come will make up for the two years of losses. “I think 2022 to 2024 are going to be big years,” said Magnus, who hopes that there is pent-up demand within Asia to visit Switzerland.
He also said that during the last two years, several major upgrades in public transport, such as the new terminal for the Bergbahnen Jungfrau, have been completed ahead of schedule because of the lack of tourists. “As we’ve seen in Europe, as soon as people were allowed to travel, they did,” concluded the chief executive of the Bergbahn, who said that Asia will be no exception.