The tourism industry is one of Switzerland’s most important economic sectors and employs around 4% of the working population.

Skiers on a ski slope
Skiers in the Jungfrau region in the Bernese Oberland © / Thomas Senf

With lakes, forests, mountains and clean air Switzerland has much to offer visitors. The tourism sector is one of the main drivers of the Swiss economy. With 35.6 million overnight stays in 2015, the Swiss tourism industry generated around 2.8% of the country’s gross domestic product, or a total of CHF 17.4 billion. More than 170,000 people (full-time-equivalents) work in the tourism industry. In 2015 guests from Germany racked up the most overnight stays Europe-wide (4 million). Guests from the Gulf States also contributed a high number of overnight stays (0.9 million). China (1.4 million overnight stays) and India (0.6 million) were other eastern countries from which visitors flocked to Switzerland. 

Origins and development 

At the crossroads of Europe, Switzerland has always attracted visitors. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Romantic literature and art engendered unparalleled enthusiasm for the mountains. It was at this time that the English travel agent Thomas Cook organised the first package holidays to Switzerland. 

During the post-war years Switzerland was one of the most sought-after visitor destinations thanks to the growing popularity of winter sports. This led the country to extend its road and rail networks and build new homes and hotels. 

The strength of the Swiss franc and the state of the global economy have a major influence on tourism demand. In recent years, tourism organisations, such as Switzerland Tourism, have launched campaigns to attract new visitors, particularly from emerging countries like India, Russia and China. 

The most visited destinations are the Zurich region and the alpine cantons of Graubünden, Bern and Valais.

Additional information