City tourism had boomed in recent years, thanks above all to international visitors from long-haul markets and a strong performance by the meetings and incentives business. These were two success factors that both suddenly fell away in 2020 as a result of the travel restrictions and strict protective measures. The effect is plain to see in the statistics: in all, the big and small cities recorded a 56,5 % drop in 2020. This equates to 10.9 million fewer hotel overnight stays than in the previous year.

The unprecedented situation called for new solutions. Switzerland Tourism ST therefore decided to create new target groups as part of its cities campaign 2020 and replanned the entire customer journey, with a focus on domestic visitors and those from nearby countries. However, stepping up marketing efforts for city tourism could only alleviate the massive slump in hotel overnight stays during 2020.

Städtetourismus Schweiz

Which Swiss city saw the biggest percentage increase in domestic visitors in 2020?

  1. Neuchâtel
  2. Spiez
  3. Paradiso (Lugano area)
Your answer is correct. right
Your answer is nearly correct. right
Your answer is incorrect. wrong

The municipality of Paradiso (Lugano area) recorded the greatest year-on-year increase in domestic visitor numbers in 2020 of any town or city with over 50,000 hotel overnight stays (+ 39%). It was followed by Spiez (+ 24%) and Neuchâtel (+ 8%).

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City tourism promotion

Support for cities was a major part of ST’s 2020 recovery campaign. Some 25% of the CHF 12 million recovery budget was devoted to themes and activities linked to cities and their environs, including attractively priced, easy-to-book city offers in summer and autumn 2020:

  • Between July and November, ST published a 12-page cities supplement in Coopzeitung magazine (Swiss City Swap), which has a circulation of 2.7 million.
  • ST also published a Cities magazine at short notice (print run of 300,000). This included a flyer containing offers from all the city partners.
  • ST achieved 42 million impressions through a novel Pinterest cities campaign.
  • ST also undertook media relations activities in the form of an autumn special in 20 Minuten, containing numerous attractive hotel packages.
  • ST launched the new Bed ’n’ Bureau programme in response to the new home working situation.
  • The entire package of measures was also supported by an online push for all offers. That led to a further 6.3 million marketing contacts and 25,000 sessions on the corresponding offer pages.

Media push for cities

ST’s marketing model is based on four pillars. One of its main instruments is key media management, which involves proactively pushing topics for journalists. Results of ST’s media relations activities included 20 Minuten, one of the newspapers with the highest circulation (print and online), publishing an editorial series on cities during the summer and autumn. They featured weekend trip suggestions for seven cities in all, spaced at two to three-week intervals, in the form of a recommended itinerary. The cities covered included Winterthur, Geneva and Thun. The series had generated 9.1 million media contacts by the end of 2020.

Calls for Sunday trading in cities

At a political level, ST lobbied for Sunday trading, with shops and restaurants open for business (see Blick article). The aim is to contribute to revitalising Switzerland’s city centres, which are important for tourism. The possibility of shopping on a Sunday, together with attractive dining options, is a major incentive to choose a city break.

Facts and figures
  2020 2019
Budget CHF million 9,9* 10,8
Share of total budget % 12 12,9
Target markets CH, CN, DE, ES, FR, IT,  UK, US 
Number of brochures distributed   300,000 3.6 million 
Page views of** million 3,1  3.6 
Top advertising and marketing contacts million 270 498
Media contacts (readers, viewers, listeners) billion 2,5 5,64
Top media articles influenced   765 1,145
Participants in ST press trips   167 693
Overnight stays generated through KAM million 0,1 0,9
*Including recovery funds. 
**Only views of pages with specific cities campaign content are counted.