The Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit of 2017 was to Switzerland. It was during this visit that him and the Swiss Federal President Doris Leuthard declared the China-Switzerland Year of Tourism. Now the year has passed and we would like to present you some history of the Swiss-Chinese cooperation in regard to tourism and the events that took place during the year.
Presently China is the fourth-most important foreign market for Swiss tourism, after the USA, the UK and Germany. For Chinese tourists Switzerland is one of the three most popular countries to visit in Europe, along with Italy and France.
The prevalent picture of Chinese tourists is that they come in huge groups and by bus, from which they get offloaded in front of tourist sites and shops, then onloaded again and driven to the next European destination. The statistics of Swiss Tourism show us that it is true that most Chinese come in groups of about 40 people and that they visit up to 15 countries in about 10 days.
However, nowadays a shift is taking place, tourists from the booming mega-cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong) show a tendency of coming in groups of 15 to 25 people or going on individual travels. Swiss Tourism expects that by 2019 40-50% of Chinese tourists will be FITs (Fully Independent Traveller). The younger generation has more travel experience and is more and more interested in local cultures, art and outdoor-activities, not only in shopping and visiting world-famous sites for snapshots.
Until 2004 only Chinese with a specific travel authorisation by the Chinese government were allowed to visit Switzerland. Since Switzerland received the status of an approved destination (ADS – Approved Destination Status), everyone with a Swiss or a Schengen visa can visit Switzerland, on the premiss that they travel in a group of five. The number of Chinese tourists has dramatically increased ever since.
The skiing industry in China is growing as well and will be growing further, especially since China has been chosen as host country for the Winter Olympic Games in 2022. The slogan San Yi Ren Shang Xue 三亿人上雪 (300 Million People in the Snow) has become the motto. Business is booming for travel operators and ski equipment companies.
The series of events for the China-Switzerland Year of Tourism was kicked-off in May with the “Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation” in Beijing. The goal of the forum is to build a more open and efficient international cooperation and to push for a more just, reasonable and balanced international governance system.
This event was followed by the “ECO Forum Global” for sustainable development in June in Guiyang.
The busiest month was September with “Beautiful China”, a forum for the promotion of tourism and culture in Geneva, the Chinese-Swiss forum for hotel management in Beijing, the second edition of the “World Winter Sports Expo” in different locations in China and Switzerland as the guest of honour. The expo is the most important trade fair for winter sports in China and was attended by 120’000 visitors.
From the middle to the end of September 100 Swiss tourists climbed the great wall – an event organised by the CNTA.
At the end of October Swiss Tourism took part in the important art fair for contemporary art “Westbund Art & Design” in Shanghai, and presented the rich culture of Switzerland.
One of the highlights was the visit of the two Swiss St Bernard dogs “Apero” and “Bricotine”, who travelled to Beijing and Shanghai to meet the public and establish an emotional relationship between Chinese tourists and Switzerland under the motto “狗 to 瑞士” (“go to Switzerland”, pun with the word for dog which is read as “gou”).
St Bernard dogs are regarded as national symbols of Switzerland, comparable to the Chinese national animal, the panda. The dogs successfully concluded their mission and soon became popular in the media and on social media platforms like weibo, on which they have their own account.
The year was concluded on December 7th with the closing event in Lausanne. During the event a memorandum of understanding was signed between Swiss Tourism and the CNTA for a long-term strengthening of the cooperation of the two countries.