From record high to zero

  13.04.2020 Business

"In February, the Swiss hotel industry recorded a 61.5 percent drop in overnight stays from China," writes Schweiz Tourismus in a press release. Nevertheless, February still ended with an overall increase of 6.4 percent. This is why nobody could have imagined two months ago that the absence of the Chinese was only the tip of the iceberg.

The February plus is due to the guests from the Euro countries, who spent their holidays in Switzerland more numerously than over the last years. The overall winter (November to February) had also set a new record by then – before the outbreak of coronavirus led to a dramatic end to the season in Europe as well, and to a collapse that is still unfathomable today.

Heralds already felt in February
Hotels in the Saanenland did feel harbingers of the coronavirus. The first two weeks of March were weak due to uncertainties and travel restrictions. This was after local companies were able to match the record figures of 2008/09 from December to February. "Had it not been for the virus, many hotel businesses would have written new record figures," confirms Christof Huber, president of the Gstaad-Saanenland Hotelier Association.

Swiss hotels are allowed to keep their doors open and provide meals for their guests in compliance with the FOPH hygiene regulations. However, the number of guests has dramatically decreased, of course. Because hotel guests are currently sparse, many establishments have closed earlier than planned. The Gstaaderhof – run by Huber – is amongst tose. Other hotels and catering companies are staying open and offering take-away services.

"The summer season will be difficult"
When asked about the coming summer season, Huber says it's like looking into a crystal ball. But he knows one thing for sure: "The summer season will be difficult." The cancellation of major events will have a huge effect. The polo tournament and the beach volleyball tournament have already been cancelled. Huber hopes that the restrictions will be gradually relaxed in May and June and the situation will return to some kind of normal in July. "At the moment, I am assuming that the restrictions will be lifted in July," he says. The president of the Hoteliers' Association hopes that the Swiss will then have an increased need for holidays and will therefore travel to the mountains. But whether confidence will already return depends on many components, not least on whether there will be tests that confirm immunity and whether drugs against the virus will be in production.

Can the employees enter the country?
Another question is whether the hotels will have enough staff in summer. Many of them come from abroad. "Since foreigners with an employment contract are allowed to enter Switzerland, I don't see a problem there," says Huber. He does not believe that fear is holding back the guest workers at home. In summer, the problem of staff shortages is a little less serious anyway. "Many companies operate in summer mainly with yearly employees who live in the region," Huber notes.

Based on AvS/Blanca Burri

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