The results of this year's summer season for the Swiss mountain railways are sobering. Viewed across Switzerland as a whole, the minus 24% is clear for first-time entries and sales. Despite positive developments (Graubünden and Ticino) and moderate results (Valais and Eastern Switzerland), the Asian guests are missing in the major destinations in Central Switzerland and the Bernese Oberland.
The pandemic has caused the summer business that the mountain railways have successfully built up in recent years to collapse again. Although fewer and fewer corona measures were necessary in Switzerland over the summer of 2021, the frequencies at many cable car companies have remained below those of the reference year 2019. The eased travel conditions led to more tourists from other European countries, which, however, could not compensate for the loss of tourists from overseas.
The weather was extremely rainy and cold from May to July. That is why day-to-day business fell short of expectations, especially at the beginning of the summer season. From the holiday month of August, the weather has continuously improved and in the last two months there has been a lot of sunshine in the mountains, which has increasingly attracted outdoor sports enthusiasts and hikers to the mountains. The good weather in the last few months of the season has increased the frequency and sales and has resulted in better results overall than it appeared after the cold and wet start.
Thanks to good weather and lots of sunshine, Ticino and Graubünden were able to increase both frequencies and sales. In the case of Valais and Eastern Switzerland, the difficult start to the season could at least be compensated for. At the end of the season, the level there was similar to that in the reference year 2019 (see Fig. 1). In Central Switzerland and the Bernese Oberland, on the other hand, the destinations are still suffering from the lack of tourists from Asia. The lack of this guest segment means that both first-time entries and sales unfortunately remained clearly in negative territory throughout the summer.
Mountain railways as "Public Service"
As before, the mountain railways are not profitable in view of the crisis and the mountain railways fulfill the function of the tourist "public service". Without the operation of the mountain railways, the mountain regions would face a major economic fiasco this year. This systemically important industry therefore needs public support.