(Revised January 2019
Demographic Structure - Population: 8.3 million, Growth 4 percent
Share of population working (age 18 - 65) 72.9 %, GDP USD 669b, Unemployment 2.8%
Summary in a Nutshell
Switzerland continues to enjoy one of the world's highest standards of living with relevant high incomes. Based on its GDP it ranks 19th in significance on a worldwide scale. The "shock" of the 2015 Swiss National Bank's sudden floating of the CHF vs.Euro has been amazingly well "digested" by the industry. Three years after somber forecasts from New York to Tokyo, Swiss industry presents itself leaner and meaner than ever before. Manufac- turers seem to have done their "homework". Many which moved production to low-cost countries are now taking it back. Exports, which account for half of the Swiss GDP grew by some 5 percent in 2017 topping $ 220 b. GDP grew 3.4 % in the second quarter of 2018 - the strongest since 2010. The Swiss Credit Bank's so-called "exports barometer" also topped the highest level in the past five years. Inspite of nearly zero inflation salaries are again increasing by 1-2% countrywide. Growth is supported by the economic recovery in Europe and the Euro’s rate of exchange fluctuating around CHF 1.15. Switzerland's trade surplus grew from 12.07 billion CHF in 2006 to a record level of 36.5 billion in 2015 and per capita incomes are at some 82,000 $. The main factor of future uncertainty, however, remains the indepteness of the Euro zone and its shaky currency which may again drive the exchange rate of the CHF up.
2018 Economic Data
Swiss industry accounting for a good 50 percent of the country’s GDP, now appears to harvest the results of its efficiency programs. Lead by the powerfull, hightech pharmaceutical giants most companies managed to streamline processes, improve productivity and cut costs. The machinery and watch industries, in particular, now report again full order books. Impressive progress made in automation are now allowing companies to again manufacture in Switzerland, inspite of salaries which rank amoung the world's highest. The Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) has topped 62 points in July, the highest since 2011.
Switzerland’s inbound tourism sector too takes adventage of a somewhat weaker Franc which is now traded at around 1.15 CHF to the Euro. It has attracted a growing number of visitors from neighboring countries, Germany in particular. Visitation from the U.S. and and Asia is also up. KOF, the prominent economic institute of Switzerland's top university „ETH“ (one the world's top ten) predicts the GDP to grow by 2.4% by the end of 2018. Major foreign and local companies such as CSL Behring, HofmannLaRoche and others are investing in new, large production plants with hundreds of new jobs. Google has its second largest R&D center worldwide in Zürich. A highly educated workforce, high incomes and productivity combined with a comparatively liberal labor market seem to justify the investments. The Swiss focus on high value added niche markets, innovation (Swiss industry is again at the top of the worldwide WEF ranking), leading edge R&D (the country boasts Europe's two top universities) as well as an "entrepreneur friendly" environment seem to pay off. Last but not least the banking industry, the country's fourth ranking sector has adjusted to OECD standards and settled most of its tax disputes. Stability and security, typical Swiss qualities, remain a significant adventage for this particular sector and explain its reputation as a "safe heaven".
Wages although being among the world's highest kept growing by an average of 1-2 percent in 2018. Swiss salaries continue to attract a significant foreign labor force. Some 1.2 million people from neighboring countries live and find work in Switzerland. An additional 300'000 cross the borders daily for work. "Little Switzerland" often referred to as an economic power house (see table below) boasts a GDP of USD 660 b, close to one fifth of Germany's, Europe's biggest nation with an eleven times larger population. Swiss industry is the top foreign direct investor in the EU and ranks 7th as a direct investor in the US providing nearly half a million American jobs.
2018 Swiss economic and political position in Europe and outlook
Inspite of its small geographic size, Switzerland is Europe's seventh largest economy, the third ranking trading partner and the top foreign direct investor in the EU. Located in the very center of the European continent, with a multilingual, multicultural society Switzerland is not a member of the EU, inspite of its close historical, cultural and linguistic relations. EU membership is presently rejected by over 80 percent of the population. However, nearly 25 percent of the resident population are foreign nationals, mostly from the EU. The country is an important workplace for some 1.5 million foreigners including some 300'000 crossing the borders daily for work. The IMF estimates that they transfer yearly the equivalent of 25.5 b USD to their home countries. Swiss industry enjoys one of Europe's best developed worldwide commercial networks. It is the result of the historical need for "little Switzerland" to look beyond its borders which can be traced back to the 19th century. Over 40 percent of exports are now going to countries outside of Europe, nearly double of a few years ago. However, the EU at the Swiss doorstep remains the main single trading partner.
Wheras Swiss bilateral relations to most European nations are excellent, relations to the EU per se remain somewhat less harmonious. The Swiss political system known as "direct democracy" (allowing citizens to decide about taxes, regulations, agreements etc.) proves to be incompatible with the EU's goals of further political integration and centralization, in particular. Tensions have increased due to EU pressure for the conclusion of a "framework agreement" trying to closer integrate Switzerland into the EU's legal structures - inspite of the obvious economic "win-win" situation. A massive loss of sovereignty in key matters will hardly be accepted by Swiss voters who will have the last word about such an agreement. Interestingly, many international experts see Switzerland with its four official languagues and multicultural society as model for a European Union.
2017 Swiss Economic data compared to a selection of other nations Switzerland Austria Sweden Netherlands France Germany Singapore Population (mil.) 8.5 8.7 9.9 17 64.9 82,1 5.7 GDP (billions) 660 383.5 507 762.7 2'42 3'42 292 Unemployment 3.2 8.6 6.1 4.8 9.9 3.8 1.9 Per Capita GDP 78,450 43,786 49,824 44,654 37,295 41,244 51,431 Competitivness* 5.8 5.1 5.4 5.5 5.1 5.5 5.7 Debt vs GDP** 32.6 84.6 41.6 62.3 96 68.3 112 Internet acces*** 89.2 81.1 93.1 93.7 86.4 88 82.5 *Ranking WEF ** % of dept vs. GDP *** per 100 inhabitants Sources: IMF / Wold Bank / UN / 2017 data are forecasts and subject to changes, Basis January 2018 / all in US $
2017 Swiss Economic data compared to a selection of other nations
Per Capita GDP
Debt vs GDP**
** % of dept vs. GDP
*** per 100 inhabitants
Sources: IMF / Wold Bank / UN / 2017 data are forecasts and subject to changes, Basis January 2018 / all in US $
Profile of Swiss Travellers
The small size of the country has forced the Swiss to look beyond the borders, in particular since the beginning of the industrialization in the 19th century. Most speak one or several languages of the adjacent countries facilitating cross border traffic and communications. Some of the old established international networks still play a role, particularely in Asia.
Swiss, as a result, are ardent travellers inspired by their multilingual resp. multicultural society with 4 official languagues. Some 25 percent of the resident population are foreigners. Language barriers are low. English is widely spoken. Most are well informed about international politics and relevant issues, particularly in major countries and of Switzerland's neighbors. People enjoy ecaping the "narrow borders" of their country and make use of their purchasing power. In 2017 each resident did an average of 3.1 foreign trips with at least 3 overnights They spent an average of $ 258.00* per day and person (domestic and foreign travel). Swiss appreciate service, punctuality and quality and are willing to pay for it. They tend to travel individually or in small groups, enjoy meeting the local population and avoid crowds.
Booking behavior: 71 percent of all travel was booked via the internet. This includes bookings on the websites of travel agencies, resp. TO's which seems to be a growing trend (+2%). The percentage of "self-organizers" dropped in 2018 to seven percent from 13 percent in 2014. About 27 percent use the personal service of travel agencies the sales of which topped USD 7 billion in 2018 Long haul and complex travel is often booked via travel agencies for reasons of safety, support and comfort. The German speaking Swiss seem to be more safety minded than their French or Italian speaking counterparts. Many young people book at travel agencies to overcome limitations in the use of credit cards
*average exchange rate March 2018: 1.00 USD = 0.96 Swiss Francs.
10 most popular destinations (countries) 2017
|* arrivals in thousands||**average overnights per person|
|Please note: Data for neighboring countries include frequent day and weekend trips accross the borders|
Annual Swiss arrivals in the U.S. in 2016 : 471 (thousands)
The total Swiss outbound travel market for 2017 is estimated to top USD 15.7 billion
Behavior of Swiss travellers by gender and language/cultural region:*
Men were found to spend some 25 percent more when travelling than women.
Number of annual trips abroad* taken by: German speakers: 2.9; French speakers: 2.4;
Italian speakers: 1.8 (*short trips accross the border not included)
Access to the internet: 93 percent of the Swiss population uses the internet regularely
as a source of information
Source: Swiss Federal Office of Statistics
Booking preferences for all travel
Hotel preferences and booking behaviour of Swiss travellers
Where do they get the information from?
The Swiss travel trade consists of 1100 so-called Class A and about 450 Class B travel agencies.
Largest companies include:
- Hotelplan Group - Kuoni Travel (DER)
- TUI Suisse - Knecht Reisen AG
- FTI - Globetrotter
Average margine 15.6% (travel agencies). Sales grew 2017 by 3.3 percent over the previous year. Travel agencies charge their clients a handing resp. counselling fee of $ 60.00 which may be waived depending the total cost of a package.
Revised December 2018
Somewhat over 441'000 people from Switzerland visited the U.S. in 2017 or 17 percent less than in the record year 2015. That number in relation to the size of the market is still an impressive "production", in particular, if the purchasing power is taken into consideration An analyses over the past 30 yeras shows that similar fluctuations took place e.g. in 2000 to be followed by a steady growth reaching the all time record of over 536'000 arrivals. The drop at the time was triggered by the value of the USD which in 2000 increased by one third followed by 9/11 in 2001. We attribute the lower numbers to some factors like a temporary "saturation", a change of generation, higher US prices combined with a permanent, somewhat "unfavorable" media coverage of U.S. politics. Our outlook remains clearly positive. The focus of the promotional programs is on education of the local trade to guide their clients to destinations off the beaten tracks.
As of 2018 a total of 15 U.S. cities are accessible from Switzerland by means of non-stop flights. The new destinations such as Denver or San Diego are ideally placed to allow attractive one way trips avoiding crowded airports and domestic flights. The Swiss appreciate the comfort of reaching their destinations without changing planes. We consider this a strong incentive to consider just another U.S. trip, in particular for the many "repeaters"
An recent analyses shown by means of below graphic shows that Swiss travel to the U.S. is mostly driven by the rate USD vs. CHF. Political events such as the change of an Administration etc. tend to be less important
Swiss Arrivals 1994 - 2017 (please note: as of 2015 total arrivals & Swiss national arrivals)
2018 Arrivals by May total 180`333 (plus 0.5 percent)
|Rate of exchange applied: 1 U.S. $ = 0.98 Swiss Franc.
|AIRLINES WITH DIRECT SERVICE BETWEEN THE U.S. AND SWITZERLAND|
||Ex Zurich||Ex Geneva|
|Swiss Intl. Airlines||Boston, Chicago, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco||New Yorknnnnnnnn|
|American Airlines||New York|
|Washington D.C., Newark NY, San Francisco CA
|Delta Air Lines||Atlanta, New York|
|United Airlines||New York||New York|
||Tampa Bay, FL; Las Vegas, NV; San Diego, CA, Denver CO
Lengths of stay 2017 (est. based on 2016 data)
|**(49% staying less or longer than 10 days)||* source US DOC|
Profile of averageSwiss traveller to the U.S.
Swiss tourists to the US like to travel individually or in small groups with friends. They enjoy the well developped US travel infrastructure which most consider a “trademark” of the mobile American society. It allows them to be creative themselves and do some "own" planning on site. Larger groups are now mostly special interest such as senior citizens associations, readers travel/news-papers etc. The average Swiss traveller is well informed about U.S. politics and life. Most have an above average purchasing power due to high incomes. The Swiss Franc kept its strength as opposed to the Euro. Spending per person and day in the U.S. is USD 395.00. Swiss attach importance to punctuality, quality of service, food and good accommodation and are willing to pay for it. Most speak at least basic English. In recent years the U.S. increasingly became a popular destination for family holidays shown by the number of arrivals peaking in July (Summer School vacation). The latest trend, however, is to enjoy the warm summers at home and move foreign travel, longhaul in particular, into Fall. It is made possible by longer Fall school vacations which were extended at the expense of the Summer vacations. Worldwide security problems, in particular in some popular destinations, are of concern for elderly or senior people. However, the U.S. is still mostly considered a "safe destination.
|What are Swiss travellers looking for in the U.S.?
|The majority of Swiss visiting the U.S. enjoy meeting Americans. They like their easy going ways and accessibility. Big cities with cultural and sports events, shopping, sightseeing, restaurants are popular but also the typical friendly hospitality of American small town communities and their lifestyle. Cities of particular interest due to their fascinating multiethnical, cultural and historical background are San Francisco, New Orleans, Miami, Boston, Chicago and New York. Nature and wildlife (national parks and forests); native Americans; Western lifestyle (horses, BBQ, dude farms); outdoor activities (jeep tours, river rafting, helicopter rides, biking). The U.S. is becoming a viable alternative to typical beach vacation destinations located in politically instable and potentially insecure regions. Typical American sports (rodeos, baseball, American football) which are less known in Switzerland are most popular among Swiss travellers., They enjoy the excitment at such events. American hospitality is an asset and an occasional touch of American nostalgia is appreciated, in particular by people of 45 years of age and more... The Swiss are open to new, less known regions, states and parks - somewhat off the tourist mainstream. This also applies to places, hotels etc. off-the-beaten-tracks in big cities.
|Where do they go?|
You may find Swiss all over, increasingly off the beaten tracks. Swiss like to travel on their own and often they make complementary arrangements on site - where they like it.. (event bookings, extensions, excursions). Authenticity is important. The high percentage of repeat visitors is reflected by the interest in less known or new destinations. Popular states and regions are: New York (NYC) California, South West (AZ, UT, NM, NV), Florida, Alaska, New England States South (FL, GA, SC, LA, KY, TN), Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Hawaii, Oregon, Wash. State, Texas, Mid-Western States/Great Lake States.
Growing market for competent travel agency service and counselling
The study also showed a 3 percent increase of bookings at travel agencies by young and middle aged people - a reverse trend which has to be watched. The worldwide security challenges may have a positive impact on U.S. travel. Due to security concernes a more people also decided to remain in Switzerland per se.