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Switzerland offers itself to whoever wants it

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Tourism players would have gladly done without this sinister journey through time: in 2020, the pandemic brought the hotel industry back to its 1950 attendance levels. In Switzerland, 23.7 million overnight stays were recorded. This is 40% less than in 2019, a record year.

Read our editorial: 2021, year of all dangers for Swiss tourism

The only positive point to remember from this adulterated cuvée, the Swiss traveled their country with frenzy during the summer. The figures published Friday by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) remember it: in July, their stays in Swiss hotels jumped 35% compared to the previous year. Over the season as a whole, native overnight stays increased by 23%.

We are experiencing a certain convergence with the cities

Andreas Züllig, President of Hotelleriesuisse, hotelier in Lenzerheide (GR)

Foreign tourists are rare. Very rare. Consequence: the clientele plunged by 67% in 2020. 67%: it is also more or less the fall that the Geneva establishments had to digest. It is the most spectacular collapse in the country, but Zurich follows closely behind.

If the mountain regions succeeded in doing well during the summer, the picture then darkened. “We are experiencing a certain convergence with the situation in cities”, observed Andreas Züllig, President of HôtellerieSuisse, himself a hotelier in Lenzerheide (GR), on the occasion of the annual press conference in Switzerland. Tourism.

In 2020: Swiss tourism faces its own high cost

The months of November and December thus saw night-time attendance cut by two at the national level. In Valais, the drop in overnight stays is 32%. Even Graubünden, the most spared region, is not immune to a drop of 18%.

A summer of “all dangers”

The crisis triggered by SARS-CoV-2 leaves the sector bloodless: according to the estimates of its umbrella association, the Swiss hotel industry suffered in 2020 an overall loss of turnover of 2 billion francs, or -40% per year. compared to the previous year. If catering and ancillary services are taken into account, the loss in turnover amounts to at least 3.4 billion francs.

there is a risk that the Swiss may want to go elsewhere

Roland Schegg, tourism expert

The restrictions and the unpredictability of the evolution of the health situation continue to weigh heavily on the course of business. The February holidays recorded a 16% drop in reservations, the drop in attendance at the resorts is estimated at 36%.

In the eyes of Switzerland Tourism, the recovery will remain “hesitant” for the next two years. Its director, Martin Nydegger, still wants to see “hope in the valley of tears”, hoping for the resumption of European travel this summer.

For Roland Schegg, professor at the tourism institute of the HES-SO-Valais, this season nevertheless presents itself as one of all dangers: “Decisions will be taken late but there is a risk that the Swiss will want more. to go elsewhere. What was gained last year could therefore be lost. Neighboring countries could compensate for this lack, but I would not rely too much on it because the economic situation is very uncertain in these countries. ”

Focus on sustainable tourism

Taking note of the changes in behavior that this stubborn crisis could bring about, Swiss tourism circles have decided to focus on sustainable tourism, considered “fashionable”.

A trend that Switzerland Tourism considers also tailor-made for the destination it promotes: “Our public transport network is one of the densest in the world and it is massively supplied by hydraulic energy”, enthuses Martin. Nydegger, which also evokes the many restaurants renowned for their local cuisine.

There is very quickly a contradiction between economy and ecology

Christophe Clivaz, professor at the Institute of Geography and Sustainability of the University of Lausanne

After tracking down quality, safety and cleanliness, the organization is launching a new label with its partners. Called “Swisstainable” and endowed with three levels of requirement, it can be obtained by tourist providers in the country who will be illustrated by their attention to local products or their commitment to food waste.

A global commitment, not a niche

In recent years, Switzerland Tourism has focused heavily on non-European customers. The organization has passed like a cat on the embers on the main criticism leveled at its industry: the carbon footprint of air travel. “We cannot simply take into account the activities on site,” underlines Christophe Clivaz, professor at the Institute of Geography and Sustainability at the University of Lausanne.

The expert specifies that, in fact, no destination can resist a detailed analysis of its balance sheet in terms of sustainability because “there is very quickly a contradiction between economy and ecology”. He would have gladly seen among the initiators of this new program actors such as the Swiss Foundation for Landscape, Swiss Heritage or the Network of Swiss Regional Parks.

Andreas Züllig prefers to think in terms of room for improvement: “When tourists travel, there is a carbon footprint. But we can still do a lot by getting around on an electric bike or eating locally. It is in any case certain that at the present time, we cannot afford to turn our backs on foreign customers. “

Be careful, warns Christophe Clivaz, “sustainable tourism is not a niche. The approach must be comprehensive over the long term. ”

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