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British skiers to Switzerland falls by 30%
Friday September 28, 2012 - Email this article to a friend

In a frank assessment Switzerland Tourism has admitted the number of overnight stays has gone down by almost a third since 2008/09. The country though is fighting back and other markets have increased, notably from Asia.

The figures confirm what many already know - British skiers and snowboarders are staying away as the recession bites and the exchange rate makes things even worse.

Last winter, like the ones before, was tough and Switzerland Tourism has been refreshingly honest in its assessment.

It says things are going to get worse before they get better.

"It is going to be a very, very tough year and we have not reached the low end yet," said the UK and Ireland Director of Switzerland Tourism, Marcelline Kuonen.

She was speaking to a delegation of British journalists in Switzerland.

However the UK is still the second most important market after Germany. The number of overnight stays by Germans has shrunk by 20%.

PlanetSKI is based in Verbier for much of the winter and we are fans of Switzerland as it offers an altogether different experience and we reckon has some of the best skiing in the Alps.

It does though come at a price.

What is interesting is the honesty of the Swiss that perhaps stands in contrast to some other ski regions where numbers are massaged and made deliberately vague to the media.

"I was surprised when we were told the figure as most resorts would not reveal those sort of figures, even though true, so I admire the Swiss for being upfront and honest," said the PlanetSKI content editor, James Cove, who was at the media briefing in Switzerland.

The country is fighting back with a marketing campaign to stress the attractions of the Swiss Alps.

The hotels, the resorts, the snow cover, the quality and the country's alpine history.

It is stressing that a holiday to Switzerland is all about unwinding and relaxing. It has produced the tongue in cheek video below to emphasise the point and PlanetSKI has been given exclusive access to it before it is released next month.

It is also stressing the variety of activities in offer and in particular snow-shoeing and winter walking.

It may seem odd for a ski nation to be promoting other winter activities, but it is.

The fall has mainly been in the middle and lower end of the market.

In Verbier last year there were less British skiers taking group lessons, eating at some of the mountain restaurants, drinking in the apres ski bars and hiring equipment. 

However some ski schools reported good business for private lessons, the expensive restaurants were full and the up-market chalet and hotels did well.

A new hotel is opening this winter to cater for the rich that are still coming to Verbier in steady numbers as we reported earlier.

Swiss resorts and tour operators are fighting back. 

One of our partners at PlanetSKI, Inghams is offering 2 for 1 lift passes and resorts like Arosa are offering free ski lessons for children.

There are many other special offers around but many skiers and snowboarders still can't overcome the fact that the exchange rate is poor.

5 years ago £1 would buy you 2.6 Swiss Francs, now it will get you just 1.46.

"We are facing tough times, but it is not we that have a strong currency but you that have a weak one," joked Marcelline Kuonen to the assembled ski media.

However despite the fall in British visitors there has been some increases from elsewhere. The Russian market was up 9.5% from January to July 2012..

There has also been an increase from other parts of the world. India, China and Brazil have been target markets and they are producing results.

From Janaury to July the Chinese market went up by 27% and now has a 3.8% market share. Visitors from India were up 10.5% and it has a 2.9% market share.

We have reported in the past on PlanetSKI on the targeting of the Asian market and the money it is bringing in.

For the time being though the British are coming in smaller and smaller numbers. 

Switzerland though is stressing the benefits of what it has to offer and fighting back.

James Cove will be reporting soon from Zermatt as he makes his first turns of the 2012/13 season and sees what new things are on offer in Switzerland.

For the spirit of the mountains

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