Sustainable Tourism @ Switzerland

Casey Liu

Switzerland is landlocked by high mountains in the middle of the European continent, but it is world renowned for its natural beauty and centuries-old green lifestyle. In spite of having only a population of eight million, its success in sustainable tourism has caught world attention. The United Nations has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development (A/Res/70/193, draft A/C.2/70/L.5),and the following article gives us further insight into Switzerland's unique development of sustainable tourism.

First of all, the Swiss understand that protection of natural resources is important to a healthy, green lifestyle. As early as in 1876, the Swiss government proclaimed 'The Federal Forest Law' under which a minimum of 30% of the country's land should remain as forests, and this percentage has been raised continuously. With thriving natural flora and fauna, the forests provide clear air which is distinctly fresh, a rare find in Hong Kong.

To protect nature, the Swiss are serious about environmental protection. The following reveals secrets why they are the world champion in recycling.

Nothing is wasted, not even the rubbish they dump. Colorful collection bins are used and waste is carefully classified and labelled before being handled by the local authorities, thus saving time and money for easy recycling. While in Hong Kong we are proud of our 'blue (bin)for paper collection,’’ yellow (bin) for aluminium cans,’ ‘brown( bin) for plastic bottles', comparatively the Swiss has long started a larger variety of collection bins. They manage to collect 94% of their used glass materials and 81% of PET ( raw materials for producing plastic bottles). Some of these materials are not only recycled but 'upcycled', and given a new lease of life as designer items.

In order to attain high quality living, the Swiss government has enforced strict rules against dangerous emissions such as carbon dioxide and air pollutants. They fully utilize renewable energy such as solar energy, hydroelectricity and biotech-related energy. As a result, their sources of water (such as rivers and lakes) are totally untainted, and can be consumed direct from the tap. Likewise, water from lakes and streams in the countryside is suitable for drinking.

When tourists visit Switzerland, they come across a very intricate but efficient transport network. The Swiss railway network is over 5000 km, covering snowy and mountainous terrain. eg. The Glacier Express between St Moritz and the Zermatt, and then the scenic Golden Pass Line between Zurich and Geneva. Both routes offer panoramic and breathtaking views, which are memorable and at the same time bring the passengers close to nature. Switzerland also offers tranquil, scenic, and safe bicycle and hiking trails which are easily accessible to hikers and travelers riding on rent-free or low-rental bikes.

Accommodation-wise, hotels, hostels, campsites, farm stays are many,and with good facilities. A lot of the hotels have been converted from historic buildings which maintain the characteristics of traditional Swiss architecture. Hotels also offer fresh food and beverages supplied by local farms. Tourists are ensured that they have every opportunity to be close to nature.


The Jungfraujoch and the Jungfrau railway

The jungfraujoch, a guarantee to an unforgettable experience on one of the highest points of the Alps, is 4158 metres high, and together with the Aletsch Glacier, are well known UNESCO's heritage sites.
On the top of the Junfrau is a huge observatory where one can see fantastic views of Swiss mountains, and nearby is the Jungfraujoch Railway Station, both highest in Europe. The construction of this railway is considered “magnificent rail works” in world railway history. It was constructed 100 years ago. 9.3 km long, and 80% of the railway has been built inside the Alps. The railway climbs slowly up from 2000 meters until it reaches 3454 metres, allowing the tourists to enjoy the high alpine wonderland of ice, snow and rock, passing the panoramic 'Ice Palace'.

La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle

La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle (two outstanding towns of the watchmaking industry) have been awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO, which recognizes their unique architecture.

Starting out as small mountain villages 1000 meters above sea level, both towns have been shaped over a few decades by their watch industry. At first glance, the lengthy straight streets of both towns look insignificant, but in fact they have historical and architectural value. The street plan, the buildings and the factories were designed to answer the needs of a new industry that eventually symbolizes the region and Switzerland as well.

The Old City of Bern

Founded in 1191, it had been a political center and a busy thoroughfare for the past nine centuries. It's well preserved medieval townscape has made it a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site and are frequented by admiring tourists. With its 6 km of limestone buildings and medieval arcades, it boosts of Renaissance fountains with colorful figurines, and beautiful Cathedral with multi-coloured rooftops. The old city of Bern had sustained its charm. Scenic-wise, cultural-wise, historical-wise and architectural-wise, it is truly an unique gem.

About author

Casey Liu, Chief Representative, HK and South China at Switzerland Tourism. Miss Liu aims to introduce Sustainable Tourism in Switzerland and the green lifestyle of the Swiss people.