How massive and lasting the consequences of the coronavirus will be for tourism is difficult to assess at the moment. Nevertheless, the regions are reporting in some cases large drops in demand. Therefore, the situation of the businesses is increasingly to be classified as serious. The largest Swiss tourism associations are calling on the Federal Council to provide rapid and unbureaucratic support for severely affected SMEs. The focus is on a pragmatic approach to short-time work and bridging liquidity bottlenecks.
Economic consequences not yet assessable
In a statement, the tourism associations welcome the fact that tourism, as an industry that is currently particularly hard hit, was able to inform the Federal Council directly about the situation on Thursday. Together with other business associations and the social partners, HotellerieSuisse and GastroSuisse took part in a round table convened by Minister of Economic Affairs Guy Parmelin to deal with the economic consequences of the coronavirus. At the moment, the total economic consequences cannot yet be estimated. They depend heavily on how the spread will continue and what measures will be needed to contain it. For tourism, the decisive factor will be whether global containment of the virus is achieved by the summer season.
Massive drop in short stays
According to a survey conducted by HotellerieSuisse in mid-February, more than 50 percent of participating establishments recorded or expected cancellations due to the consequences of the coronavirus. The pandemic is having a particular impact in urban areas. 62 percent of respondents from these regions say they have been affected. These figures have probably already been overtaken by reality. Current assessments from the regions confirm that all tourism regions are suffering from cancellations of events as well as travel stops by companies. Due to the increasing precautionary measures and restrictions within Switzerland and important countries of origin in Europe, the wave of cancellations is likely to affect further groups of guests. For example, short stays by Swiss nationals have plummeted, in some cases massively, which is exacerbating the situation for accommodation providers throughout Switzerland.
Uncomplicated help for affected SMEs called for
Swiss tourism knows how to deal with economic difficulties in a self-responsible manner, according to a statement issued on Thursday. Nevertheless, in this extraordinary situation, the Federal Council and the authorities must introduce support measures for affected SMEs quickly and without complications. The associations have therefore submitted their proposals to Federal Councillor Parmelin. The focus is on a pragmatic approach to short-time work. The administrative burden must be reduced and compensation should be paid out quickly, they demand. Furthermore, the public sector should grant appropriate respite to SMEs with liquidity bottlenecks due to the slump in sales. A uniform line in the definitions and criteria for handling events must also be ensured throughout Switzerland, the associations demand. In this situation, "cantonal thinking" is not appropriate.
The above-mentioned steps are intended to help the industry tackle the current challenging situation - whether further measures will be necessary will depend on the further course of the spread of the virus. It is important for the tourism industry, which is dominated by SMEs, that all measures are quickly effective, targeted and temporary, the statement continues. One such possibility would be special programs in the area of demand promotion, so that the industry can win back guests from the distant markets, Europe and Switzerland.
Tourism associations stand united
According to the 2018 satellite account, tourism generates direct gross value added of more than CHF 19 billion with a demand of CHF 47 billion - which corresponds to a share of 2.9 percent of Switzerland's overall direct gross value added. As representatives of the industry, HotellerieSuisse and GastroSuisse are in close contact with the other tourism associations. Accordingly, they represent the following other institutions in discussions with the Federal Council: Parahotellerie Schweiz, Seilbahnen Schweiz, Schweizer Tourismus-Verband, Konferenz der regionalen Tourismusdirektoren, Verband öffentlicher Verkehr, Swiss Snowsports.