Travel means interacting with people, being active on the move and immersing oneself in a country’s culture. However, the protective measures put in place to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic are largely incompatible with a contact-intensive service sector like tourism. A survey conducted as part of a gfs study found that the Swiss government did a good job of walking the tightrope between permitting freedom of movement and implementing restrictions in the first year of the pandemic, with 49% of respondents describing the measures as balanced.

Reducing the perceived travel risk

Over the last two years, the Swiss tourism sector has been implementing concepts that are designed for the long run and offer good compatibility with mask-wearing, social distancing and hygiene measures. Switzerland’s ability as a holiday, travel and conference destination to positively influence perceptions of travel risk and its management will surely be a decisive consideration for travellers choosing a destination in the coming years. A study published in September 2021 on the scientific platform, which looked at the impact of Covid-19 on the perception of travel risk and risk management, issued recommendations including the following:

  • Alternatives to travel by public transport
  • Scope for online booking with instant responses and comparison options
  • Destinations off the beaten track
  • Hygiene and safety concepts that are rigorously implemented and clearly communicated

These changed circumstances have also been seen in Switzerland, where demand for outdoor activities and holiday apartments has risen substantially, while demand for city tourism has shrunk.

Switzerland Tourism ST responded quickly, introducing the Clean & Safe label in 2020. This helped achieve a positive perception of the travel risk. The label signals to foreign visitors in particular that they are visiting an establishment that has consciously committed to complying with the safety concept. ST also responded to these needs with the Million Stars Hotel offer. Its extraordinary sleep experiences are located in lesser-known spots, generally away from it all in the midst of nature. In many cases they are only available to book exclusively for two people. The second round of this project took place in 2021, with the possibility of booking directly via the website. Meanwhile, the Grand Tour of Switzerland offered inspiration for touring holidays by car.

Implementation in winter destinations

Tourism service providers in winter destinations have also responded to these altered needs. Titlis Bergbahnen AG, for example, has brought in additional measures including automatic sanitisation of its escalator handrails (see video) during operation. Experts at the Weissen Arena group (Flims, Laax, Falera) worked with scientists at Germany’s B-FAST network and laboratory medicine experts to develop the Safe Mountain concept. The concept, which was implemented in December 2020, focused on the strategic testing of visitors, residents and workers in the tourism industry. The government of Vaud introduced a similar strategy for the 2020/21 winter season, with large-scale testing campaigns across the canton. In Villars, for example, 1,147 people took part in a voluntary three-day testing drive that led to 23 infected people being identified at an early stage.