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Tourist offices set to disappear

The majority of Switzerland’s 350 tourist offices will disappear over the next few years, according to Switzerland Tourism. But as physical doors close, online ones could open.

“The number of offices will drop,” admitted Jürg Schmid at an event for Switzerland Tourism’s 100th anniversary in Geneva on Tuesday evening. “Digitalisation will very quickly cause the disappearance of counters for customers.”

However, the jobs of promotion agencies and specialists such as guides in tourist areas would certainly not be affected, he said. “Digitalisation enables new forms of cooperation and services, but there needs to be a structural change.”

For Schmid, the greatest challenges were the new demands on staff. In addition, costs would remain high, he said, while prices would stay the same.

The branch now plans to win back European tourists, who had stayed away from Switzerland following the so-called Frankenshock in January 2015, when Switzerland suddenly became around 20% more expensive for eurozone visitors. Switzerland Tourism also saw potential in Chinese guests, hoping the number of overnight stays would double over the next 15 years.

Handheld future

Geneva politician Pierre Maudet, who recently nearly won a seat in the federal cabinet, spoke at the event and called for a new distribution of labour in the tourism industry but not a loss of jobs.

“The tourist office is there,” he said, pointing at his smartphone. “Digitalisation will result in other forms of work – in the restaurant and hotel trades as well.”

Maudet also hoped to see a sustainable yet forward-looking form of tourism and closer cooperation between Geneva and neighbouring France.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/ts