In January, the Graubünden lift companies lost 40 percent of their transport sales compared to the previous year due to the corona restrictions. Keeping the ski areas open and voluntary involvement in mass tests by the companies prevent the Graubünden tourism industry from being completely destroyed.
At the end of December 2020, the cumulative decline in transport sales compared to the previous year was still 22.8 percent according to the Monitor von Bergbahnen Graubünden (BBGR), the industry organization of the Bündner Bergbahnen. With the 39.4 percent of January, the cumulative loss in transport revenue increased to 28.7 percent. The number of guests fell in January by 41.4 percent, accumulated over the previous winter by 31.1 percent. The more international the guest structure and the greater the focus on leisure tourism, the greater the decline in the regions. Samnaun, for example, is badly affected, also due to the closed partner ski area Ischgl. The BBGR monitor includes 23 mountain railway companies that generate 90 percent of Graubünden's transport turnover.
The Graubünden ski areas have not developed into corona hotspots, despite contrary forecasts. The majority of snow sports enthusiasts behave in a very disciplined, patient and understanding manner. The protection concepts work and are currently being supplemented by voluntary mass tests in the companies in which the mountain railway industry has taken on a national pioneering role with the Weisse Arena Gruppe. Martin Hug, President of Bergbahnen Graubünden, comments on the decline as follows: "The restriction on the sale of day tickets and the general request to stay at home have had a major impact on guest behavior". Furthermore, the restrictions in the gastronomy and the lack of warm-up possibilities have impaired the experience character and thus shortened the length of stay of the guests, especially families. In addition, there is no group business with school camps, clubs and companies. The older, snow-loving guests, as a risk group, sometimes even completely forego skiing fun. The international guests stay away and the mutated virus variants are causing additional uncertainty with the tightening of the lockdown since January 13th. Nevertheless, the industry is very happy to be able to work and offer its services.
Even in a long-term comparison with three winters with little snow (5-year period) and in the 10-year period with the two-fold devaluation of the franc, the transport turnover and the number of guests show a clear turning point due to the corona pandemic. In this comparison, the January transport turnover fell by 25.9 and 29.4 percent respectively. Since the start of the season, it is 13.1 percent in a five-year comparison and 15.4 percent in a ten-year comparison. The losses are very challenging and leave deep marks. Because the Graubünden mountain railway companies generate 92 percent of their transport income in winter. This covers 80 percent of the fixed costs that arise from spring to the start of winter. This includes, for example, the maintenance of transport systems, machines and infrastructures. With annual investments of around 120 million euros, the mountain railway industry is Francs are also of great importance for local businesses and their jobs. Without compensation, there is a risk of foregoing investments, concentrating on the most essential maintenance and painful adjustments to processes and structures.
Despite the decline in transport sales, Bergbahnen Graubünden (BBGR) is convinced that the ski areas will be kept open for the health of the Swiss population and the Graubünden economy. For the downstream service providers in the tourist value chain in winter, such as accommodation, gastronomy, sports shops or retail, the ski areas are a prerequisite for generating sales at all. In addition, the longer people feel the more the need to go outside and recharge their batteries. The pandemic is slowly leaving its mark. On the other hand, the mountain railways also offer the opportunity for the upcoming sports holidays to move around in nature in a corona-compliant manner with excellent slope conditions and to spread out over the area in an orderly manner.
BBGR President Martin Hug has demanded that the mountain railways be compensated for this “public service” provided and for the losses suffered by the canton and federal government. In contrast to other sectors, the mountain railway sector has not yet received any promise of financial compensation. The valid hardship ordinance alone definitely falls short due to the possible amount of compensation and the size of the company announced. Most of the larger and medium-sized Graubünden mountain railways are integrated companies with several operations in the areas of transport, gastronomy, accommodation, sports equipment rental, etc. There are therefore ongoing discussions with the canton about Graubünden mountain railways. The same way, Seilbahnen Schweiz conducts the dialogue at federal level.