Switzerland has started welcoming fully vaccinated visitors from the Gulf Cooperation Council states from June 26. The Swiss Federal Council approved a proposal to relax its entry requirements for arrivals from the Schengen Area and third countries on June 23.
The new ruling now allows GCC residents who have been vaccinated with a European Medical Agency (EMA) and WHO approved vaccination (up-to 12 months after vaccination), entry into Switzerland without any pre-travel PCR test or quarantine on arrival.
Following the decision, touri-sm officials in the canton of Graubunden, also known as Grisons, are gearing up for a busy summer.
“Switzerland and the Graubu-nden region in particular have always been favourite holiday des- tinations for tourists from the GCC and with the re-opening of borders, we look forward to welcoming them again this summer.
“This year in particular, the fresh air, outstanding natural beauty, mild climate and healthy outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling and sailing make it the perfect destination for family pursuits,” said Tamara Loeffel, head of business development at Visit Graubunden.
According to official sources, in the years prior to the pandemic, GCC tourists were responsible for approximately 1mn overnight stays per annum in Switzerland, with daily expenditure of around US$466 per day each.
Many of the GCC visitors are leisure tourists, travelling mostly during the summer months. Residents from the UAE and Saudi Arabia make up the bulk (70 per cent) of the tourist arrivals to Switzerland from the GCC, with Kuwait and Qatar accounting for over ten per cent with the balance coming from Bahrain and Oman.
“With this latest announcement by the Swiss government, added to the existing pent-up demand, we are expecting exceptionally heavy demand from the GCC countries. Graubunden has to be nature’s remedy for a post-COVID holiday,” Tamara added.
The Graubunden region is also very familiar with Middle Eastern culture and most restaurants offer halal menu options.