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Arabs & Chinese aid Swiss tourism
Saturday October 13, 2012 - Email this article to a friend

The high cost of the Swiss franc is putting off Europeans and even the Swiss themselves. Visitors from Asia are on the increase and some see them as the saviour of a troubled industry. They rarely ski though.

Last month PlanetSKI was in Zermatt for the launch of the Swiss Tourism winter programme.

There was a host of new things on offer from ski lifts, alternative activities in the mountains such as wellness, snowshoeing and winter hiking.

The uniqueness of the Swiss Alps was highlighted.

However what was on many people's minds was the exchange rate.

It currently stands at 1.4SFr for £1, whereas before the economic downturn of 2008 it was 2.6SFr.

Not only are Europeans opting for the euro-zone countries, so are the Swiss themselves.

Even the head of marketing for the UK and Ireland, Marcelline Kuonen, admitted visitors from the UK were down 30% and it was going to get worse before it got better.

See here for our PlanetSKI story from the time.

One sector of the market that is expanding though is tourist from Asia and parts of Africa.

In the first eight months of this year in the Bernese Oberland, in central Switzerland, overnight hotel stays by people from the Gulf States rose by 24.7% and the Chinese by 26.5%.

The increase started around six years ago and it has taken time for the hotels to adjust to the differing needs of their guests.

"In the lobby, they just ask me where Mecca is and go on the carpet and pray, and of course for the other guests, this might seem a bit strange," said the owner of the Hotel Carlton-Europe Interlaken and president of the hoteliers association for the Bernese Oberland, Stephan Maeder.

By and large the visitors from Asia come in the spring and summer and not during the ski season.

If they do come in winter they tend to take the train to the Eiger or the Gornegrat in Zermatt and then come straight down.

In Engleberg there is a fascination with the Titlis revolving cable car that often plays piped Indian music to make the visitors from the the sub-continent feel at home.

They prefer shopping and sight seeing to skiing and snowboarding.

For a recent feature on the growth in these markets see this story from Swissinfo.

Switzerland is not the only country targeting the tourism markets further afield.

Zell-am Zee in Austria has a large percentage of summer visitors from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

Summer funSummer fun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WelcomingWelcoming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some shops even change their signs for the summer muslim visitors.

Local supermarketLocal supermarket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burkhas and traditional dress are everywhere to be seen in the authentic Austrian village.

Even up on the glacier above Kaprun that is open in the summer months.

The future of alpine business?The future of alpine business?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter weatherWinter weather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The resort now makes no attempt to attract the visitors as it does not need to - they come in huge numbers regardless.

Though some fear it is putting off local Austrians and Germans from visiting.

With dwindling numbers of Europeans visiting the Swiss Alps it is perhaps a problem some within the Swiss tourist industry would like to have.

For the spirit of the mountains

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