Switzerland for Chinese

by Terence MacNamee

Rumour has it that is about to get easier for Chinese visitors to travel to Switzerland. This is not out of kindness to the Chinese, according to reports in the newspaper NZZ.

It seems that Swiss hotels have been getting a lot of fake bookings from China. When the guests don’t show, they can’t collect any penalties from Chinese credit-cards. The reason why this is happening at all is because European consular offices in China have been insisting on people having a hotel reservation before they issue a visa for the Schengen travel area, which includes Switzerland. The visa from one Schengen country is good for all the others. Chinese like to go to Swiss consular offices for their Schengen visas, it seems, just because the Swiss have the reputation of being quick and efficient in handling the applications. But to get the visa from the Swiss, they are supposed to have a hotel reservation in Switzerland. The Chinese will therefore book a Swiss hotel, any hotel, just to get the Shengen visa, even if they are not going to Switzerland at all.

So there! The Swiss hotel industry is nudging the Swiss government, and it seems that the government is going to respond by getting the European countries of the Schengen area to drop the hotel reservation requirement.

Meanwhile lots of Chinese visitors are in fact coming to Switzerland. They come for the scenery and most of all to shop – for chocolate, Swiss army knives, watches and other luxury goods. What else? One can assume that they know as little about the country as Swiss or other Westerners going to China. They can’t speak the language(s) and have only the vaguest and most stereotyped notion of the history or the culture of the places they visit at lightning speed, shepherded by efficient tour guides. Asia-Europe and Europe-Asia tourism is a growing thing, but alas, it is still a “dialogue of the deaf”. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were people to receive you in the country you were visiting who spoke your language – spoke the other language too – and really could initiate you to understanding the place and the people? Then tourism might lead to international understanding.