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Switzerland Faces Tough Winter Tourism Season

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Fewer foreigners will vacation in Switzerland this winter, put off by the strength of the Swiss franc and the weak state of the global economy, a research institute said on Tuesday.

BAK Basel predicted overnight stays in hotels by foreign visitors would fall 1.8 percent this winter, having already slipped in the summer and last winter.

However, the forecast produced for the Swiss Secretariat for Economics (SECO) forecasts that overnight stays by Swiss people will edge up 0.2 percent this winter.

Since the financial crisis erupted in 2008, Switzerland's mountain regions have suffered a 14 percent fall in overnight hotel stays. Visits by European tourists, such as from Germany or the Netherlands, have fallen particularly sharply.

BAK Basel expects 2013 will be another weak year and the tourism sector will only return to growth in 2014, seeing hotel stays rise 1.8 percent assuming the eurozone emerges from the crisis and economic growth gains pace worldwide.

Overnight stays are expected to rise by another 2.8 percent in 2015, the institute said.

The strength of the safe-haven franc has posed a particular problem for the tourism sector.

To prevent Switzerland from slipping into a recession after the franc rose 20 percent against the euro within the space of just a few months last year, the central bank imposed a cap of 1.20 per euro on its value. Yet the franc is still more than 20 percent stronger than it was in 2008.

(Reuters)