Switzerland is preparing to welcome Chinese tourists as it expects tourist arrivals from China to increase rapidly in the coming months, a senior official at Switzerland's national tourism agency said.
Simon Bosshart, chief markets officer East at Switzerland Tourism, said he is confident about the return of Chinese visitors following the lifting of pandemic restrictions. "China will become a very important market for Switzerland once again," he said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese visitors were the highest tourist spenders in Switzerland, spending an average of 380 Swiss francs ($425) per person a day, according to Switzerland Tourism.
In 2019, the number of overnight stays by Chinese tourists reached 1.8 million, making China the fourth-largest source market for Switzerland. However, the number of visitors fell to between 2 and 10 percent of 2019's totals during the past three years.
Bosshart, who was the agency's China director and has been involved in the Chinese market for more than 17 years, noted it is always striking how things quickly change in China.
"With its ambitious and fast-developing nature, once things really arrive in China, China is much quicker in transforming into a reality than any other country," he said.
China's pent-up demand for travel to Switzerland is already evident, he said, "with visa demand back to 30 percent in January and February, compared to the same period in 2019".
"This is a very clear sign of recovery," he said.
While Switzerland's Chinese market is currently small, Bosshart believes its potential is massive.
"China is a huge market with a population that is developing fast, living in big cities, and looking for authentic experiences, pure nature, and relaxing environments. Switzerland is well-positioned to meet the needs of Chinese tourists for such unique experiences," Bosshart said.
He believes quality tourism will recover faster and shape the future of the market following the end of the pandemic.
"I think the role of China has changed. Before COVID-19, China was a mass market, but now the market will fundamentally change in its quality. Europe has come to the limit when it comes to capacity for mass tourism, especially in destinations like Switzerland, which is not a cheap destination," he said.
Bosshart emphasized that sustainable travel is also a major focus for Switzerland's tourism board. With European governments promoting sustainable travel and requiring tourism boards to promote it as well, Switzerland is putting a lot of effort into this area.
Gary Bowerman, Asia travel and consumer trends analyst and director of the consultancy Checkin Asia, said: "Switzerland has established a strong reputation in China for the quality and prestige of its brands and products and as a tourism destination, so it is well-placed to attract affluent tourists who want to explore the country and learn about its history, culture, landscapes and cuisines in more detail."
Dimitrios Buhalis, head of the department tourism and hospitality at Bournemouth University, echoed the view, saying: "Sustainability is essential for destination management and also for ensuring that tourism benefits local communities.
"Destinations need to look after their resources and ensure that they support the experience of their customers," he said. "This is a global trend and will involve travelers and the entire tourism industry."