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Swiss banking on China's Winter Olympics legacy

China Daily | Updated: 2022-02-22 08:32
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Tourists and skiers take in the Alpine scenery in front of the Matterhorn mountain in Zermatt, Switzerland, in 2019. XU JINQUAN/XINHUA

GENEVA-Switzerland Tourism, the national marketing and sales organization for the Alpine country, expects to reap long-term benefits from the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, betting on Chinese tourists to hit the slopes in their home country and in the Alps soon, a top executive says.

Simon Bosshart, head of Markets East at Switzerland Tourism, tells Xinhua that the Beijing Games have opened up massive business opportunities for the landlocked, mountainous country, which is one of the world's top destinations for winter sports.

"For us, the Beijing Olympics have started far earlier than just this February. We saw this craze for winter sports coming a decade ago. We started to promote such offerings intensively 10 years ago," he says.

"All these preparatory years of the Olympics have, of course, massively fertilized the interest of the Chinese in winter sports."

As of October 2021, over 346 million Chinese people have pursued winter sports activities since Beijing's successful Winter Olympic bid in 2015, far exceeding the country's initial goal, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics. The number of people pursuing winter sports is expected to surpass 50 million by 2025, according to the government's 2016-25 development plan for the sector.

"The need is there, and we absolutely believe in this potential in the future," Bosshart emphasizes. "Now that the Olympics are over, now that the pandemic is slowly coming to an end, we can start to work again, and the Chinese people can come back to experience the Swiss winter again."

Switzerland Tourism, headquartered in Zurich, has a presence in 27 countries. It has been promoting Switzerland as a holiday, travel and conference destination at home and abroad.

Its aim is to position Switzerland as a tourism brand standing for quality, naturalness, authenticity, sustainability and modernity, under the overall concept of "Swissness".

Bosshart says that Switzerland Tourism has been present in China for more than 20 years after establishing a representation office in 1998.

"All this time, we have slowly increased our presence, investments and awareness about winter sports. Even now, with the pandemic, this hasn't really changed. We are still there with the whole setup that we had prior to the pandemic. Our team is as motivated as ever," he says.

Bosshart says that preparations for the summer season were already in full swing again, and that his team was "ready again for new promotions and cooperation with Chinese counterparts".

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the Swiss tourism industry hard, Bosshart says.

According to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, tourist accommodation in Switzerland, including the hotel sector and supplementary accommodation, registered 38.5 million overnight stays in 2020. This corresponds to a drop of 31.5 percent compared with the demand in 2019.

"The business came to a standstill. We are at roughly 2 percent of the business that we had in 2019. There are still Chinese visitors coming, but very, very few. Our team has been grounded for two years now and many events have simply not been possible to execute," Bosshart says.

"But I think that time now is slowly coming to an end and we can get back to work as usual again," he says.

Looking ahead, Bosshart says that Switzerland Tourism will focus on four areas in China: the snow sports communities and influencers; cooperation with the winter sports industry, such as ski resorts and fitness centers; classical tour operations and packages; and traditional media and social media promotion.



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