Chinese Tourist Flows to Switzerland Will Not Fully Recover Before 2026

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Chinese tourism in Switzerland is slow to bounce back, with a number of obstacles holding back potential travellers.

The lack of air capacity is cited as one of the main causes: whereas before the pandemic, there were around twenty direct air links between Zurich and mainland China, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, there are currently just three direct flights a week to Shanghai. Flights from Beijing to Geneva are operated four times a week by Air China.

The other airlines are only slowly expanding their range of flights. In its winter schedule, Swiss International Airlines offers six direct flights a week to Shanghai, but none to Beijing. The situation has eased more quickly when it comes to Hong Kong, with six SWISS and three Cathay Pacific flights a week. Before the pandemic, however, there were 14 weekly flights. This winter, SWISS plans to offer one flight a day to Hong Kong, a spokesperson said.

Many travellers from China opt for flights with a stopover. According to Zurich Airport, Frankfurt, Dubai, Hong Kong, Doha and Amsterdam are the most frequent transit points. In Europe, Switzerland Tourism estimates that air capacity is around half what it was before the pandemic.

What’s more, during the crisis, many travel agencies in China laid off staff who are now needed to restart operations. Especially as hotel capacity in Switzerland is already booked up by other tourist groups.

Saving rather than travelling

The difficult situation in China could also limit the recovery, according to Switzerland Tourism. In times of uncertainty, people may prefer to save rather than spend on travel, but the effects of such behaviour are difficult to predict. The issue of administrative procedures, with many passports having expired during the pandemic, adds another obstacle.

In 2019, China was the fifth most important market for tourism in Switzerland, with almost 1.4 million overnight stays, after the Swiss themselves, Germany, the US and the UK. Over the three years of the pandemic combined, overnight stays barely reached 275,000.

Switzerland Tourism expects that the Chinese market will not fully recover before 2026.

Source : SWI