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Switzerland woos UAE tourists

United Arab Emirates: Thursday, April 01 - 2004 @ 15:10

A 20-strong delegation from Switzerland Tourism is making a 10-day series of presentations across five Gulf cities, reaching the travel industry, media, and VIPs.

In Dubai yesterday (March 31), the Swiss road-show detailed how well the recipe is working. More than 17 million visitors spent 68 million overnights in Switzerland last year, drawn by the Alps, the lakes, and an infrastructure that works with the same precision as the proverbial Swiss watch.

Tourists outnumber the resident population of 7.2 million by more than two to one, and tourism now ranks as the nation’s third-biggest export industry. It employs more than 300,000 people and contributes up to 6.8 per cent of GDP.

The Middle East is already a prime market segment for the Swiss, currently the source of 260,000 overnight stays per year – and growing. Numbers have almost doubled since 1999 when Switzerland hosted 150,000 overnight stays by Gulf visitors – a figure expected to top 300,000 by the end of 2004, up 15 per cent on last year.

The tourism delegation currently visiting the Gulf represents a cross-section of the Alpine nation’s holiday resorts, hotel chains, and hospitality businesses.

They have already visited Kuwait and Abu Dhabi, and from Dubai they move to Riyadh and Jeddah for a series or presentations running until April 5.

Today’s gathering in Dubai heard how Switzerland Tourism works with overseas travel agents and tour operators, and the marketing support being provided to stimulate interest from the Gulf region. New markets – including the Middle East – now account for 10 per cent of visitors to Switzerland.

The famous snow-covered Alpine peaks, Unesco heritage sites, world-class cities with outstanding shopping facilities, special programmes for children and parents, a host of quality-certified health spas, and a unique public transport network add up to a luxury lifestyle that defines the nation’s character.

These attractions are already a major drawcard for Middle East tourists. And with special visa arrangements in place – a Swiss visa or European Union Schengen visa is all that is needed by GCC visitors even although Switzerland is not an EU member – tourists from the Gulf do not have to cope with daunting bureaucratic requirements to gain entry.

Ms Regi Wittwer, Switzerland Tourism’s Market Manager – GCC and India, told the Dubai guests: “Switzerland represents four cultures and four languages, united by a common bond of friendliness and zero stress. Whether visiting as individuals or families, for business meetings or conventions, tourists are assured of good value for money in an environment where everything works smoothly and efficiently.

“And there are so many facets to Switzerland, it’s like visiting four or five different countries in one. Superb hotels, world-famous catering skills, endlessly fascinating scenery, and a highly efficient road and rail network all combine to make Switzerland one of the most abidingly-popular tourism destinations.”

Mounted in conjunction with Swiss International Airlines, the Dubai road-show was concluded by workshop sessions when the delegates met individually with members of the local travel industry. A VIP reception followed at Nad Al-Shiba Club where delegates met top-level leaders in UAE.

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Thursday, April 1- 2004 @ 15:10 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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