A passenger poses for a photo with an airport mascot at Athens International Airport in Greece, on Dec. 22, 2022. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
Switzerland Tourism expects 2023 to be the start of recovery for travel from China to the landlocked Alpine nation, which ranked among the favorite destinations for Chinese tourists in summer and winter alike before the pandemic.
by Martina Fuchs
GENEVA, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- Switzerland Tourism expects a "bright recovery for travel from China to Switzerland" this year following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in China and plans new initiatives to lure Chinese travelers, a top executive said on Friday.
"We welcome the latest measures that the Chinese government took towards the reopening of outbound travel. This is a major step for Switzerland Tourism," Daniela Chiani, director for Greater China, told Xinhua in a virtual interview.
"We expect 2023 to be the start of the bright recovery for travel from China to Switzerland. However, we also acknowledge that there are still some structural impediments, and it will probably take some time until travel fully recovers."
The world's longest narrow gauge passenger train runs on the Rhaetian Railway in Switzerland, Oct. 29, 2022. (Xinhua/Lian Yi)
Switzerland Tourism, the country's official tourism board headquartered in Zurich, is the national marketing and sales organization with 35 offices in 23 countries.
Its aim is to position Switzerland as a tourism brand standing for quality, naturalness, authenticity, sustainability and modernity, under the overall concept of "Swissness."
Switzerland Tourism has been present in China for 25 years after establishing a representative office in 1998.
"It is, of course, difficult to forecast, but Greater China has been the third most important source market for Switzerland Tourism," Chiani said.
The Federal Council said that the current pandemic situation "does not presently warrant" compulsory COVID-19 testing for travelers from China.
Chinese passengers arrive at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Samut Prakan, Thailand, Jan. 9, 2023. (Xinhua/Rachen Sageamsak)
Before the pandemic, the landlocked Alpine nation of more than eight million people ranked among the favorite destinations for Chinese tourists in summer and winter alike.
The mountain resort of Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn, the city of Lucerne with its covered footbridge and the lake, the mountain resort of Interlaken, the United Nations city of Geneva and the banking center Zurich have all been on top of the bucket lists of international travelers.
"Switzerland Tourism has been continuously active in China over the past three years. It was incredibly important for us to stay in touch with the local industry and the travel trade, and to stay on top of the minds of the Chinese people," Chiani said.
Photo taken on Jan. 18, 2019 shows the illuminated old town of Lucerne, Switzerland. (Xinhua/Michele Limina)
On Dec. 8, 2022, China decided to optimize its COVID-19 response with new COVID-19 prevention and control measures to ease the restrictions on travel and visits to public venues. On Jan. 8, the Civil Aviation Administration of China relaxed certain COVID-19 restrictions on international passenger flights.
Earlier this week, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Julia Simpson, told Xinhua she was bullish about the sector's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and expects exponential growth over the next decade mainly thanks to a boost from Chinese outbound travelers and foreign visitors to China.
Asked about new initiatives targeting the Chinese market this year, Chiani said that "Our partner destinations in Switzerland are ready to receive Chinese travelers back. We are currently working on different campaigns and products that we will be launching in 2023.
"Most importantly, in spring we will have our summer launch, where we will focus on the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland with the help of our brand ambassador, Roger Federer."
Chinese pianist Lang Lang gives a solo piano performance at Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe, in Interlaken, Switzerland, April 14, 2022. (Xinhua/Chen Binjie)
Swiss tennis star and 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer teamed up with Switzerland Tourism last year to drive its Grand Tour campaign for people to explore the country.
Covering more than 1,600 kilometers, the winding route takes visitors to some of the country's highlights, ranging from the majestic Alps to turquoise glacial lakes to tiny villages, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and five Alpine passes.
"In summer, Chinese travelers can hop on bicycles or swim in the country's rivers and lakes. In autumn, we will promote seasonal activities and get ready for the winter season and hope to welcome the many, many fans of the snow and ice industry in China."
In 2022, Beijing hosted the Olympic Winter Games for the first time, inspiring many Chinese to learn winter and snow sports, such as cross-country skiing, ice hockey or snowboarding.
An athlete competes during the men's snowboard big air final of Beijing 2022 Winter Olymics at Big Air Shougang in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 15, 2022. (Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi)
Over 346 million Chinese people have participated in winter sports activities since Beijing's successful Olympic bid in 2015, making the country's goal of engaging 300 million people in winter sports a reality, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics.
The number of people participating in ice and snow sports is expected to surpass 50 million by 2025, according to the 2016-2025 development plan for ice and snow sports released by the central government. ■