Tourism is one of the most important economic sectors in Alpine regions. It employs around 4% of Switzerland's entire workforce. Half of the tourists staying in Swiss hotels are from abroad, mostly from Germany.
With lakes, forests, mountains and clean air, Switzerland has much to offer visitors all year round. Firmly rooted in Swiss society, tourism is a key economic driver in the mountain regions, where 25 million tourists on average rack up 55 million overnight stays per year. In 2021, tourism generated roughly 3% of GDP, or almost CHF 17 billion in total.
The tourism industry provides over 170,000 full-time equivalent jobs, although many of these are part-time or seasonal. Two thirds of tourists – half of whom are visiting from abroad – stay in hotels and spas. The majority of visitors are from Germany, followed by the US, the UK and China (before the pandemic). Having suffered a severe downturn, the tourism sector has largely returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Origins and development
At the crossroads of Europe, Switzerland has always attracted visitors. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Romantic literature and art engendered an unprecedented enthusiasm for the mountains. The Swiss mountains appealed strongly to British tourists, in particular, with English entrepreneur Thomas Cook organising the first package holidays to Switzerland.
During the post-war years Switzerland was one of the most sought-after tourist destinations thanks to the growing popularity of winter sports. This led the country to extend its road and rail networks substantially and build new homes and hotels.
The strength of the Swiss franc and the state of the global economy have a major influence on tourist demand. Switzerland Tourism is the national marketing and sales organisation tasked with attracting tourists to Switzerland.
The most visited destinations are the Zurich area, Bernese Oberland, (Lake) Lucerne and Geneva. Swiss tourists mainly visit the canton of Graubünden, Ticino, the Zurich area and Valais.