The Arab traveler’s romance with Switzerland is not unknown. This year as travelers gear up for summer, Switzerland Tourism is confident of a robust season once again. Since the country lifted its travel and entry restrictions, earlier this year, UAE residents staying overnight in Switzerland surpassed all pre-pandemic levels. Comparing figures between July to December 2021 with the same period in 2019, the number of bed-nights recorded, increased 20.8 per cent from 188,384 to 227,482. UAE visitor bed-nights in Switzerland up 20.8 per cent on pre-pandemic levels and the number of UAE arrivals also grew from 75,084 to 85,632, during the same period, 2019 versus 2021.
“These are extraordinary figures and underscores the popularity of Switzerland with Emirati nationals as well as residents. From the moment that UAE residents were allowed to travel to Switzerland (June 28, 2021) we have seen a significant increase in the volume of visitors and the length of stay has also grown from an average of 2.5 nights per visitor to 2.66,” commented Matthias Albrecht, GCC director for Switzerland Tourism.
So what is in store for travelers this year?
According to Albrecht, during the pandemic it became clear that being able to enjoy nature at its best was priceless. “Switzerland is one of the world’s most beautiful cities – with our wide-open landscapes, snow-clad mountains, culture and history deeply ingrained in every street and building, it is a travelers paradise. It is nature at its best and a lot of fresh air! Switzerland is the most natural choice for a post-Covid holiday. And now that borders are open again, we look forward to welcoming our guests. In addition, our list of summer activities is endless, with hiking along 65,000km of marked routes, cycling, mountain biking, canyoning, ziplining and so much more on offer.”
Switzerland is also looking to increase its visitor numbers from other GCC countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, through various tourism strategies and a new campaign called ‘Swisstainable’, with a goal to become net carbon neutral by 2050.
The ‘Swisstainable’ program is designed as a simple and informative guide for visitors, which also encourages the industry as a whole to get involved and reduce its impact on the climate. Accessible and inclusive, ‘Swisstainable’ is open to all Swiss tourism operators, based on various criteria, with three participating tiers. Level 1 – Committed, Level 2 – Engaged, Level 3 – Leading. Alongside the practical guidance provided by ‘Swisstainable’, more general recommendations include: 1. Get up close to nature 2. Experience the local culture in an authentic way 3. Consume regional products 4. Stay longer and delve deeper.
“We want to our commitment to sustainable travel and how it is engraved in everything we do and offer,” added Albrecht.
Switzerland’s year-round eco-friendly public transport system, particularly its railway network , is a prime example of the country’s impressive approach to sustainability. The train journeys which cover the length and breadth of the country, through its magnificent mountains, dramatic peaks, reaching remote mountain resorts including Zermatt with its stunning backdrop of the Matterhorn, contributes only 0.2 per cent to the total of CO2 emissions of overall traffic.
Apart from this, fare a total of 19 Swiss parks make up more than one eighth of the land area (5,269 sqkm), with a commitment of ensuring that 30 per cent of Switzerland always remains forested . Visitors have the choice to explore the country on foot and experience one of the countless hiking opportunities, from family-friendly one-day hikes in Switzerland’s National Park to treks that last days. There are also over 12,000 kms of cycling routes throughout Switzerland.
“Our hotels too have since long adapted to ‘green living’ and this is true for a traditional Swiss hotel or a five-star luxury property, who are all committed to guests looking to travel sustainably by offering various sustainable initiatives like smart energy generation, use of renewable resources, offer natural heating systems, being local and investing in the future with sustainability training for employees, new technologies and ISO certifications.”
“Protecting the environment is in perfect synergy with Switzerland as a travel destination and taking an eco-friendly approach doesn’t mean fewer opportunities to explore. Instead, sustainable tourism invites you to travel more consciously while expanding your horizons,” added Albrecht.