Switzerland opening up again: to enthusiastic domestic tourists, but a severe lack of foreign guests.
After the horror of lockdown, brought about due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are still in a transitional phase in Switzerland. Easing of the measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus has now become possible, and the tourism industry has started up again. Domestic tourists are once again traveling throughout the country, and a few tourists from across Europe are already coming back, slowly but surely. The majority of overseas travel though is still not possible. Most of the typical summer events in Switzerland have had to be cancelled or at least took place with a particularly limited scope and with venues looking very different from usual. Additionally, business and congress tourism are still very much on hold.
To keep its finger on the pulse of Switzerland’s tourism providers, Switzerland Tourism recently asked destination marketing organisations and key mountain railways and tourist attractions across the country about their ongoing business over the summer.
Mountain destinations throughout Switzerland have reported an onslaught of Swiss guests from June to August. On average, the number of hotel overnight stays has risen by a respectable 37%, a result that was heavily influenced by the mountain resorts that have traditionally been popular among locals. This equates to 1 million overnight stays more than in 2019. Foreign demand for summer holidays in the Swiss mountains is still rather limited, however. Despite the first few tourists visiting Switzerland again from neighbouring countries and the Benelux countries, local tourism providers are expecting a decline in foreign demand of at least 44% compared with last year, equating to 1.3 million fewer hotel overnight stays by foreign guests.
Even the increase in the number of Swiss guests was unable to compensate for this huge drop in demand from abroad. The overall figures for the summer holiday season, even in the mountains, are therefore expected to have fallen by more than 5% year on year with respect to hotel overnight stays.
Swiss Holidaymakers Enthusiastic About Mountain Holidays “At Home”
The traditional Alpine destinations in particular are more popular than ever among Swiss guests, both as day trips and for overnight stays. This boom is also attracting many local first-time visitors to the mountains, who until now had never spent their summer holidays in the Swiss mountains. Fortunately, when they do stay overnight, many of these Swiss tourists are doing so for much longer and can afford to spend more than they did in the past.
As initial indicators have already shown, stays and visits in another language region continue to be highly sought after, with Swiss holidaymakers from the French-speaking part of Switzerland discovering parts of German-speaking Switzerland and vice-versa. Tourism providers in the German-speaking part, for example, are reporting that the French versions of their brochures have been quickly selling out – they would never have foreseen such a high presence of their French-speaking compatriots as tourists in their region.
On the other side of the “Röstigraben”, a term literally meaning “rösti ditch” and used to refer to the linguistic boundary between the French and German-speaking parts of Switzerland, the French-speaking regions too are happy to be receiving more visitors from the German-speaking area than ever before.
A Different Situation in the Cities
In the cities, however, the picture is sadly quite different. Tourists from overseas, with their preference for city breaks, are yet to return. And business and congress tourism are also still largely absent. Events are still being cancelled as a result of the pandemic, which has had a profound negative impact on Switzerland’s cities. Among foreign visitors alone, there have been over 2.5 million fewer hotel overnight stays over the summer holiday months this year – a decline of 63%. That being said, some of the medium-sized cities definitely saw more Swiss guests this summer. Here, too, they often came from other language regions and had a higher daily budget than last year.
Even the major mountain railways and top attractions, which are usually popular with tourists from overseas, are still suffering greatly from the absence of their foreign guests.
An Uncertain Future
According to the latest figures, the number of overnight stays in hotels in cities and on the mountains from June to August is down by a total of 3.2 million, meaning a year-on-year decline of 27%.
With regard to the outlook for the coming autumn, tourism organisations and providers throughout Switzerland are very concerned as well as cautious: due to the significant uncertainty as a result of the pandemic, it is difficult, perhaps even impossible, for destinations and service providers to predict how things will go from here. But the current booking situation is very weak, and fears of further significant declines widespread.
Image Reference: Jetboat Interlaken AG