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Swiss tourism boss says ski resort openings have been justified

Off-piste in Klosters, canton Graubünden. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

The head of the Switzerland Tourism organisation reckons the decision to open ski resorts in the country this winter has – so far – proven to be a good one.

“There were no big [virus] outbreaks, no ski resort became a hotspot, there was no major reputational damage for Switzerland – none of these fears materialised,” said Martin Nydegger in an interview with the CH-Media group on Tuesday.

Although the ski season is not over – many resorts will stay open into April or longer depending on snow – Nydegger said protective measures put in place have worked. He added that localised Covid-19 outbreaks have been restricted to individual hotels and quickly snuffed out.

The decision to open ski resorts this Winter – with safety and distancing measures overseen by cantons – was a controversial one when announced last December. With most other sports and leisure activities on pause, and with ski stations elsewhere in Europe closed for the whole season, the Swiss strategy came in for some criticism.

However, Nydegger said that “at some point the criticism coming from abroad fell away”, and that the Swiss example began to be seen positively in other Alpine countries. In France and Austria, for example, where winter tourism has been hit hard, some people have said that in retrospect they could have opted for a similar plan as in Switzerland, Nydegger said.

Nydegger, who has been at the head of Switzerland Tourism for just over two years, also said his organisation was in favour of allowing restaurants, cafés and hotels to reopen from March 1 – “at least outdoors”.

According to a government plan proposed last week, the current partial shutdown is set to be lifted only gradually: by opening museums and shops and some outdoor sports activities in March, then at a later stage restaurants, cafés, and other leisure areas.

The plan was sent to the 26 cantons for feedback, with media reports suggesting a slight majority in favour of opening outdoor restaurants and cafés from the beginning of March. The business and restaurant sectors have also been putting pressure on politicians to open sooner. The government is set to announce its decision on Wednesday.

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