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Swiss hoteliers' group calls for action over strong franc

[VIENNA]The head of the main Swiss hoteliers' group has called for action to reverse the damage the strong franc is doing to the country's tourism industry.

The Swiss National Bank abruptly abandoned its cap on the level of the Swiss franc against the euro in January of last year, sending the currency soaring.

The SNB has repeatedly defended its decision to scrap what it has said was an unsustainable policy, but the move has increased the cost of goods produced in the export-dependent economy and sold abroad, and tourist numbers have fallen. "It is time to take action," Casimir Platzer, the head of Gastro Suisse, a trade group for hotels and restaurants, said in an opinion piece in the Schweiz am Sonntag newspaper. "It is urgently necessary to call a tourism summit."

For the first two months of this year, overnight stays fell 3.9 per cent as the franc's strength discouraged people from spending winter holidays in the Swiss Alps, provisional data showed last month. "The alarm bells do not seem to have been heard," Mr Platzer said, describing "massive losses" caused by the strong franc. "That might be because the situation is not the same everywhere," he said. "The cities are prospering - in the mountainous areas the guests are staying away." While European tourists usually ski or hike in the Alps, Asian visitors generally do neither and often make only day trips to the mountains, he said.

The number of Europeans visiting those areas has fallen by up to 40 percent, causing a significant loss of income for businesses there, Mr Platzer added. "The consequences of the strong franc ... damage businesses and jobs," he said. "The time for analyses has passed. Concrete action is called for," he added, without specifying what measures should be taken at the tourism summit.

REUTERS