AN ALPINE SOJOURN
Gulf Business|June 2021
Switzerland has been the bellwether and thermometer for the health of Central European tourism. It’s beginning to climb out of one of its most challenging years ever, with Switzerland Tourism CEO Martin Nydegger bullish about a strong recovery
Varun Godinho

“Roger, I’m a certain type of actor. I need edge, conflict, jeopardy. Switzerland is just too perfect,” quipped the 77-year-old method actor Robert De Niro in the latest No Drama campaign film by Switzerland Tourism. In it, Roger Federer, who was himself brought on as an ambassador for the Swiss body earlier this year, tries to recruit De Niro in what is perhaps one of the best tourism promotional films in recent memory. Don’t take our word for it. Within two weeks of the video releasing last month, it already crossed the 45 million mark – making it the most-watched Federer commercial ever on YouTube.

The film comes in the midst of an apocalyptic past year for the global tourism industry. In 2019, global travel and tourism reportedly added $8.9 trillion to the world’s GDP. In the first 10 months of 2020 alone, the worldwide tourism industry lost around $935bn in revenue. Among the top 10 countries that suffered the biggest tourism revenue losses due to Covid-19 were five European countries including Spain, France, Germany, Italy and the UK. “Ski resorts in Switzerland were open. Swiss hotels were not closed for a single day. All the restaurants within the hotels were open, and mobility was always intact,” says Martin Nydegger, CEO of Switzerland Tourism, while explaining why the Alpine country’s tourism sector wasn’t as adversely affected as some of its neighbours. “We did not have any peaks, or super-spreading conditions. We had a much more liberal opening regime compared to other countries.”

Switzerland Tourism is a 102-year-old body, but Nydegger is under no illusion of the onslaught of Covid-19 on Swiss tourism, one that he refers to as having had a “historic impact”. He says that although tourism contributes approximately 6 per cent to the country’s GDP, its standing in the overall branding and positioning of the country is probably far higher.

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