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Switzerland hotel stays increase on rising number of Russians

Overnight stays in Swiss hotels rose in January from a year earlier despite worse-than-normal ski conditions as Russian visits to the Alpine nation increased more than any other nationality.

The Swiss federal statistics office said today that Russians on holiday over the Orthodox Christmas and New Year helped lead a 1.5% rise by all foreign tourists. The cantons most visited were Graubuenden, where St. Moritz is, and Valais where the Zermatt and Verbier ski resorts are located. Of the total number of nights spent in January in this nation of 7.5 million residents, Russian stays gained the most, rising by 22,000 compared with January 2006, followed by France. Visits from Italy and overnight stays from the Swiss themselves fell due to the poor snow conditions, the federal statistics office said. The Swiss tourism industry has been working to attract more Russian tourists who, statistics show, on average spend four times as much as other European visitors in the country.

Switzerland has more potential than any other country to develop tourism because it boasts the best transportation links, tourist facilities and natural resources, the World Economic Forum said in a March 1 report. The organization's rankings put Switzerland ahead of neighboring Austria and Germany while the US ranked fifth and at No. 6, Hong Kong led Asia, according to the survey. (Bloomberg)