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Swiss tourism urged to become ‘more local and more digital’ in 2021

Ups and downs: The Pilatus cable car company is offering a lunchtime fondue until the end of March Keystone

2020 has been particularly difficult for Swiss tourism, but experts say there is reason to hope for the industry if it focuses more on digital technologies and local offers next year.

This content was published on December 17, 2020 - 15:02
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“2021 will be a year of transition, starting with digesting the effects of the coronavirus crisis,” said Nicolas Délétroz, a professor at the Tourism Institute of the University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland. But tourism will be forced to become more local and digital, he added.

Tourism has suffered in Switzerland, above all in cities. Between May and October the number of overnight stays fell sharply in Geneva (-78%), the Zurich region (-73%) and Basel (-63%) owing to the absence of foreign tourists, the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) said.

Jürg Stettler of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts said the desire to travel was also likely to remain low. “We expect foreign demand to pick up slowly in 2021, depending on the number of coronavirus cases and vaccinations,” he said.

This demand would come first from nearby markets and then, in the second half of the year, from more distant countries such as China, according to Stettler.

However, he pointed out that those Swiss cities which in the past would have attracted a high number of foreign shopping tourists or business travellers would probably continue to be hit hard by the aftermath of the crisis. In 2019 foreign travellers spent around CHF18 billion ($20.4 billion) in Switzerland, according to the FSO.

Wanderlust

Meanwhile, online tools could help, according to the experts. “Digital advertising, especially on mobile phones, has more impact because the number of people looking for tourism offers on a smartphone has increased significantly in recent months,” Stettler said. Destinations off the beaten track would also invest in these tools more and more, he predicted.

Stettler stressed it was also increasingly important, especially in a country as small as Switzerland, to offer a combination of more affordable accommodation and the promotion of local products. “This should also increase the desire of Swiss people to travel again,” he believed.

At the same time the desire for foreign destinations should also be rekindled, according to Walter Kunz, director of the Swiss Travel Association.

“If there’s a vaccine and people cope with the virus better, that could help,” he said. “Especially as people are fed up with the restrictions and want to go on holiday to the sea again.”

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