Swiss tourism rebounding despite Omicron threat

The Swiss tourism sector had a more positive start to the key winter season than had been expected, despite the Omicron variant of Covid-19, the Switzerland Tourism agency said Tuesday.

This photograph taken on December 23, 2021 shows a statue representing the 14th century Swiss folk hero Wilhelm Tell holding his crossbow in silhouette at sunset in Lausanne.
This photograph taken on December 23, 2021 shows a statue representing the 14th century Swiss folk hero Wilhelm Tell holding his crossbow in silhouette at sunset in Lausanne. Tourism is currently on the rebound in the Alpine nation. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

“In comparison with the previous winter holiday season, overnight stays should be up by 10 to 15 percent, with the return of foreign tourists,” the agency said, citing first estimates.

It said the number of overnight stays were at 90 percent of the levels reached in 2019, so “a certain optimism is therefore perceptible”.

Reservations, and cancellations alike, were notably made at short notice, following the ebb and flow of the Covid-19 pandemic.

EXPLAINED: What are the current rules for entering Switzerland?

However, hoteliers, particularly in the mountains, witnessed a return of European tourists, especially from Germany, France and England, while domestic visitors have remained loyal.

Omicron had Swiss ski resorts rattled in early December when the government imposed 10-day quarantine restrictions on arrivals from countries with the variant of concern.

That included Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands — the three major sources of ski tourists.

Some hotels and ski schools saw their bookings with British customers plunge by 50 percent in 48 hours. But Bern reversed its decision once it was clear that Omicron was already spreading within Switzerland.

Most cases are now due to Omicron. Foreign tourists must now provide proof of a negative Covid test on entry and fill in a passenger locator form.

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10 francs: Everything you need to know about Flixtrain’s Basel to Berlin line

In early May, German transport provider Flixtrain announced it would begin running services from Basel to Berlin (and back) from June. Here’s what you need to know.

10 francs: Everything you need to know about Flixtrain's Basel to Berlin line

German transport provider Flixtrain has announced it will launch in Switzerland from June 23rd. The low-cost provider is offering 10 franc (10 euro) tickets from Basel to Berlin, among other cheap fares.

The low-cost company, which has been establishing itself Deutsche Bahn’s major competitor Germany over the past few years, runs long distance bus and train services. 

When will the services run?

The lines to and from Basel run from Thursday to Monday, with one connection per day in either direction. 

It will take 8 hours and 45 minutes from Basel Badischer Bahnhof to Berlin Hauptbahnhof. 

A trip with the German ICE will instead take just over 7 hours. 

The new line is part of an expansion of services which is set to include around 70 destinations in Germany. 

OK but will it really cost CHF10?

The price of the ticket grabbed headlines, with Flixtrain saying in its press conference that the almost-nine-hour trip would only cost CHF10 (10 euro). 

Flixtrain spokesperson Sebastian Meyer told Swiss news outlet Watson that tickets would start at CHF10, but more expensive tickets would be available when the CHF10 offerings were sold out. 

“If the cheapest ticket contingent is sold out, the next higher one takes effect. In this way, we can always offer our passengers cheap tickets. Affordable prices are still possible due to the corresponding utilisation of the individual trips.”

In order to get the cheapest possible fare, travellers are advised to book early. 

REVEALED: How to find cheap train tickets in Switzerland

Tickets between Basel and Berlin can cost as high as CHF150 or 160 euros from Switzerland’s SBB or Germany’s Deutsche Bahn respectively, although booking in advance can bring the price down to as low as CHF30. 

Where will the train to (and from) Berlin stop?

In either direction, the train will stop at: Karlsruhe, Baden-Baden, Offenburg, Freiburg, Wiesloch, Bad Hersfeld and Weil am Rhein. 

What else is different about Flixtrain?

Other than being bright lime green, Flixtrains allow you to take your bicycle with you, which is not allowed on most ICE long-distance trains in Germany. 

Are there any other destinations within Switzerland? 

As yet, Basel will be the only Swiss destination. The other two new routes are Stuttgart to Hamburg and Berlin to Weisbaden. 

In addition to the 10 franc (10 euro) ticket from Basel to Berlin, other journeys within Germany will start at 5 francs (5 euros). 

More information is available from Flixtrain at the following link. 

The expanded routes can be seen in the following image. 

A look at Flixtrain’s route network in 2022. Map: Flixtrain