What Italian visitors want

Italian visitors could be found in greater numbers in Swiss cities. Market manager Christina Gläser explains why.

Hotel overnight stays of Italian guests in the destinations: Please use the filter on the left of the map to select the display period. Three options are available: 2021, 2019-2021, 2020-2021.

Overnights

In 2021, the destinations of Zurich and Geneva as well as the destinations of Luganese and Engadin St. Moritz recorded the most hotel overnight stays of Italian guests (extended access to the Management Information System only for ST members).

In most destinations, hotel overnight stays by Italian visitors in 2021 were still a long way short of pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

Destinations in North-West and North-East Switzerland recorded particularly strong growth in Italian visitor numbers compared with 2020.

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The extensive travel restrictions in 2020 marked a low point for the Swiss hotel industry: the seven biggest foreign markets for destination Switzerland saw falls of between 37.7% (France) and 91.5% (Greater China). In Italy, the fall was 49.7%.

Which tourism region recorded the highest percentage growth in Italian visitors in 2021?

  1. Jura & Three-Lakes Region
  2. Basel region
  3. Aargau region
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The Jura & Three-Lakes region saw a year-on-year jump of 88.5% in hotel overnight stays by Italian visitors in 2021. It was followed by the Basel region (+85.1%).

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The situation was somewhat better in 2021, as European borders were largely opened up, but numbers are still way down on 2019 levels. Federal Statistical Office (FSO) data shows a slow uptrend for the European markets at least. Italian guests in the large and small cities in the summer months from May to August for example, were a source of joy, with a total increase of 64.5 % compared to the previous year.

As in 2020, the most popular region for Italian tourists in 2021 was Ticino, followed by the Zurich and Graubünden regions.

Christina Gläser, Market Manager for Italy, explains what Italian visitors looked for in Switzerland in light of the pandemic.

Christina Gläser

Market Manager, Italy

Christina Gläser, do you know what Italian visitors are looking for when they choose to holiday in Switzerland?

They want “la dolce vita” plus quality. Enjoyment is key for Italians on holiday. They look for this in Switzerland’s unique culture and nature. That ranges from the diverse and concentrated opportunities in our boutique cities to the spectacular nature of the Swiss mountains. Typically, Italians are keen to unwind and participate in sports in a natural setting, to spend a cultural weekend in a Swiss city or to indulge in wellness and gastronomic experiences.

TMS data reveals that the typical Italian visitor comes from the north of the country (70.7%) and is aged over 35 (74%). And once Switzerland has succeeded in winning the heart of an Italian visitor, there is a high chance that they will become a regular, with six or more visits (44%).

Have visitors’ behaviour and needs changed with the pandemic?

The pandemic has had a big impact on Italians, who have become very cautious about travelling abroad and only make plans at the last minute. However, Switzerland can be a beneficiary of this conservative attitude towards travel. We are using targeted marketing activities to really push the proximity of these two countries and the attractive rail connections between them.

There has been little change in Italian visitors’ actual needs, however. The desire for nature and relaxation, which they wish to experience with their social network, has perhaps grown even stronger. Italians are generally recognised as being creatures of habit when it comes to planning their holidays, which means that a good first impression is essential in securing long-term return visitors.

What can Switzerland as a holiday destination offer Italian visitors that they won’t find at home?

Quality is typically very important for Italians travelling to Switzerland. That is something they get in spades when they come here, and in all manner of forms. They appreciate our punctuality, organisation and perfectly functioning infrastructure, because all these factors ensure a relaxed break. And let’s not forget their deep love for our panoramic trains and the famous “trenino rosso”. Northern Italians also love to come for weekend breaks: the speed of train or road connections makes Switzerland the ideal choice for a relaxing and reinvigorating weekend away.

The sustainability movement has also grown ever more important in recent years. To what extent is that pattern replicated in Italy?

Sustainability is also high up the agenda in Italy; for instance, Milan won this year’s Earthshot Prize, being named the most sustainable city for its zero-waste strategy. At the same time, many Italians still like to drive to Switzerland. In 2021, we therefore focused strongly on promoting rail travel, and in particular connected this to Switzerland Tourism ST’s Swisstainable strategy. Ambitions on this scale require strong messages and voices that will be listened to. With that in mind, we could hardly hope for a better face for sustainable Switzerland than TV presenter Michelle Hunziker. As part of the Swisstainable campaign, she presented her green journey through Switzerland to her Italian public with her trademark humour and charm. With Michelle’s help, we were able to keep Swiss sustainability in the spotlight throughout 2021. In this way, we reached Italian hearts and minds on more than 100 million occasions via the various media channels.