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Swiss resorts missing Asian tourism revenue

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-08-20 10:38

A tourist takes a picture from a window during an intermediate stop at Eismeer station on the way to Jungfraujoch, in Switzerland June 28, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Switzerland's tourism industry has been hit hard by the novel coronavirus pandemic, with virus-related travel restrictions effectively ending visits from Asia.

The mountainous, land-locked European nation has aggressively marketed itself in Asia in recent years, after its strong currency made it less attractive to fellow Europeans. The campaign led to it selling 1.8 million visitor-nights to Chinese tourists in 2019, which was 400 percent up on a decade earlier.

But Switzerland has become a victim of its own success, according to the Financial Times newspaper, which says destinations that recently drew 70 percent of their visitors from Asia now sit largely empty.

"It has been a very challenging time," Urs Kessler, chief executive of Jungfraubahn, the company that oversees the gondolas and railways around the Jungfrau mountain resort, told the Financial Times. "We have gone from our best ever year in 2019 to the most severe crisis."

Despite the downturn, Switzerland has fared better than many nations economically and its gross domestic product is expected to grow by 3.5 percent this year, following a 3 percent contraction last year, according to the Swiss National Bank.

But, tourism is a major employer in the nation of 8.5 million and accounts for 4.4 percent of jobs. The fact that the sector shrank by 40 percent last year, back to its size during World War II, is worrying officials.

Martin Nydegger, chief executive of Switzerland Tourism, told the Financial Times: "The first year of the pandemic will be remembered as an annus horribilis (horrible year) for the Swiss tourism industry."

While the nation's shrinking tourism market is largely down to source nations limiting outbound tourism, many European nations have rules in place that prevent visitors entering.

The Daily Express notes that Denmark has categorized source nations by risk, with those on the red list refused entry and those on the amber list required to be double-jabbed, test negative, and have a good reason for visiting. People traveling from green-list nations still need to be jabbed, but do not need a strong reason to visit.

France has a similar traffic light system, as does the UK, Italy, and Hungary.

The United States has also been hit by a sharp fall in tourism revenue, The Los Angeles Times notes, because of its pandemic-related ban on arrivals from most nations. The ban meant the 14.5 million visitors from the EU in 2019 slowed to a trickle in 2020 and 2021.

But the BBC said travel bans are leading many people to rediscover their own countries.

And the City AM newspaper said British people will spend 51 billion pounds ($70 billion) on so-called staycations this year, which is double the normal amount.

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