A panoramic view of Thun City, Switzerland with its hospital at the centre. In 2017, Switzerland saw an increase in tourism from the UAE, with overnights at 340,000, up 4 per cent Image Credit: Supplied


There’s more to Switzerland than the Alps, lakes and chocolate. At least, that’s the message the Swiss tourism board is on a drive to spread.

The head of Switzerland Tourism said there’s strong potential in medical tourism, and is eying the UAE as a source market for medical tourism to Switzerland.

“At the moment, it’s (medical tourism) less than 10 per cent [of total visits to Switzerland]. That’s why we see so much potential and opportunity to grow. We’re looking at the UAE because we already have substantial clientele who come to visit Switzerland,” said Martin Nydeggar, chief executive officer of Switzerland Tourism.

Switzerland welcomes around 70 million visitors a year, but Nydeggar said not many of those visits are for medical reasons.

“We see high potential there. From the demand side, we get demand already from the UAE, from Gulf countries, and from Russia, in particular.”

“On the supply side, we see that a lot of hotels are building and investing into that infrastructure, so new hotels come up, and not only provide classic services; but they provide additional services such as medical services,” he told Gulf News in an interview last week in Dubai.

Nydeggar defined “medical services” as ranging anywhere from specialised spa treatments (attracting wellness tourism) to advanced surgery.

But for UAE citizens and residents looking to fly out of the country for medical or wellness reasons, Germany is already a top destination.

According to a report from the Global Wellness Institute, Germany is the largest wellness tourism market in Europe, attracting $60 billion in spending in 2015. In comparison, Switzerland drew $12 billion in wellness spending.

And Nydeggar realises the strong competition from Germany.

“Germany is way ahead because they started about 10 or 15 years ago, and they have a head start but we are about to catch up. You just have to respect that they’re the dominant partners here, and we’re trying to cut a piece of the cake for ourselves,” he said.

The CEO added: “I think the tourism attraction of Switzerland is significantly higher than Germany’s. Together with the Alps, the meadows, and our tourism assets, this is going to work to our advantage. We’re trying to bring together the combination of the Swiss assets with the Swiss medical facilities.”

In 2017, Switzerland saw an increase in tourism from the UAE, with overnights at 340,000, up 4 per cent, as Nydeggar said that the UAE is the biggest source market in the Gulf region.

“The UAE is a very important market for Switzerland with further growth potential, not only in the medical tourism sector,” he said.