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Swiss Tourism May Be Affected by Budget Cuts


There are dark clouds on the horizon for the Swiss tourism industry as the government plans to cut the budget for the industry, Swiss Radio International (SRI) reported Wednesday. The Swiss cabinet has called on parliament to approve a budget for the next four years of 186 million Swiss francs (US$152 million) for Switzerland Tourism, the marketing body of the country's tourism industry. Industry officials said, however, that this amounted to a de facto cut in the national tourist office's budget when inflation is taken into account. It demanded 195 million Swiss francs (US$162 million) for the 2008-2011 period. "The increase of hotel occupancy rates by 5.8 percent in 2006 and the prominent increase in visitor numbers during the current fiscal period shows that investment promotes growth in the industry," said Switzerland Tourism director, Jurg Schmid. In fact, the Swiss tourism industry has already revised down its growth forecast for 2007 to 1.1 percent, especially because of poor expectations for the winter season. The unseasonably warm weather means that many of the country's 230 ski resorts can only open sporadically if at all during the winter season. "There will be many resorts and villages that may not be able to stay in the winter business, so there will be winners and losers," Schmid told SRI. Unlike neighboring Austria which is largely dependent on German tourists, Switzerland has a broad visitor base. Last year, British, Americans, Russians, Indians and Chinese traveled to the country in near record numbers. Since these nationalities tend to travel in spring, summer or autumn, they can help the industry compensate for the winter decline. However, Franz Steinegger, president of the Swiss Tourism Federation, said if parliament toed the government line, it would be difficult to sell the country in emerging markets. "We have new markets in Asia for example, and we should have (more of) a presence there, so we need more money," he told SRI. The tourist officials also lamented the fact that infighting had postponed a plan to merge Switzerland Tourism with two other state-run promotional bodies. They said the merger would have assured badly needed government funding for the industry.

(Source:Xinhua News Agency , 2007-03-09)