Switzerland eyes summer vacationers from Saudi Arabia


JEDDAH: Swiss tourist officials on Tuesday exuded confidence that they would get summer vacationers from Saudi Arabia despite the holy month of Ramadan, which this year coincides with the holiday season.

“We are aware that Saudis, by and large, prefer to stay homebound during the holy month, but we are preparing well in advance in expectation of a good turnout of holidaymakers from this part of the world,” Marc-Antoine Nissille, director general of hotels, told a press conference organized by the Team of Swiss Travel Experience 2011 and the Consulate General of Switzerland at the Jeddah Hilton.

“We are here to inform the local hotels, travel agencies and tour operators that our country is fully prepared to meet all of Ramadan requirements including halal food and shisha. Budget hotels are also available across Switzerland,” he added.

“Switzerland has all along relied on VIP tourists from the Kingdom, but now we hope for middle class families to come in large numbers to the country, for medical tourism and education in particular,” he said.

Saudi Arabia tops the GCC countries among the visitors to Switzerland. The number of tourists from the region increased by 19.7 percent to 12,295 in 2010, compared to the previous year.

“We hope for an increased market share for medical tourism in competition with countries like Germany and Austria, especially because of our rapid advances in medical facilities,” he said.

Asked about opportunities in the field of education in summer, Harry John, president of Montreux Vevey Lavaux, said: “There are plenty of opportunities for students of both genders and of varying ages.”

The country also offers separate schools for boys and girls, he said. “Some schools teach girls’ etiquettes. Scout camps are among the attractions.”

Jorg Krebs, Swiss-based director for the Middle East, Africa and India, said: “We’re looking for more presence in the region to attract more tourists, especially for medical treatment.”

He said that there is no agreement signed with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities to boost the sector of tourism, but “we’ll increasingly participate in local travel agency events.”

The Swiss commission for tourism was launched in 1994 and has since been working to boost tourism in Switzerland through its operations in 28 countries.

© Arab News 2011