A booming economy, higher spending and longer holiday breaks have seen a sharp rise in the number of Indian tourists heading for scenic Swiss locales spanning alpine mountains, icy glaciers and blue water lakes.
"Though Switzerland has been a preferred destination for Indians during summers, it has of late emerged as a favourite among globe-trotting Indians," Switzerland's tourism director Federico Sommaruga, who was here for a road show, said.
"In the first nine months of 2006, we have seen a 22.5 per cent jump in tourist traffic from India over the same period in 2005," he said. "We estimate that by the year-end, the number of Indians flying into Switzerland will cross 125,000 from 101,300 till September."
On an annualised basis, tourist traffic from India is set to register 35 per cent growth in 2006 as against 20 per cent in 2005. Even with this growth rate, India accounts for only 2.8 per cent of the total visitors to Switzerland from the world over.
"Incentive trips by corporates and business engagements in Europe have seen travel groups to Switzerland from India more than doubling to 700 this year from 300 in 2005.
"Air connectivity to Zurich from multiple points in Europe, besides daily flights from Mumbai and Delhi, have also encouraged companies to fly families as well as individual travellers regularly," Sommaruga said.
With Switzerland being a main overseas destination for Bollywood shoots, producers and directors of Tamil and Telugu films are also making a beeline to capture its exotic locations.
"To sustain the growth rate at 20-25 per cent over the next five years, we are not only expanding our network of tourist and travel operators in India but also targeting new economy sectors such as information, communication and technology (ICT), biotech and Infotainment to make them explore Switzerland for leisure and business trips," Sommaruga said.
Once the new international airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad are commissioned by mid-2008, Swiss and other airlines will provide direct flights to Zurich.
Zurich is quite popular among Indian visitors owing to its attractive nightlife and the visual treat of the Swiss mountains.
To make travel to the country easier, Switzerland plans to join the Schengen zone from early 2008. The Schengen visa enables travellers to visit 15 countries including France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.