Swiss Alps Add Chinese Pop for Tourists

by swisscham in Culture & Society

Switzerland’s strong franc has driven French and German skiers and hikers away. But in the Alpine resort of Interlaken, perched beneath Europe’s highest railway station on the Jungfraujoch glacier, a new kind of tourist has arrived from further afield.Chinese are buying Swiss watches. The top four sources of visitors after the Swiss themselves are now China, the Gulf countries, South Korea and India. European countries are out of the top five, probably for good, says tourism director Stefan Otz. Chinese popstar G.E.M. performed a concert at 3,454 meters atop the Jungfraujoch glacier this summer. Local officials and show sponsor Tag Heuer, the watchmaker, hope a broadcast in China boosts the region’s appeal. Jehovah’s witnesses offer pamphlets in Chinese between Interlaken’s most famous watch shop and its bus depot, waiting for the 200-300 Chinese visitors who arrive each day. They cannot read the hanzi characters on the forms, they said, but have learned a few phrases in Chinese. The China tourism boom helped the world’s biggest watchmaker, Swatch Group, boost sales by half in July and August in tourism hot spots Interlaken and Lucerne, Chief Executive Nick Hayek told the newspaper Tages-Anzeiger.

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