Tourists are drawn to Switzerland's diverse landscape as well as the available activities, which take advantage of the Alpine climate and landscapes, in particular for skiing and mountaineering.
As of 2016,[update] tourism accounted for an estimated 2.6% (CHF 16.8 billion) of Switzerland's gross domestic product, compared to 2.6% (CHF 12.8 billion) in 2001.
Tourism began in Switzerland with British mountaineers climbing the main peaks of the Bernese Alps in the early 19th century.
The Alpine Club in London was founded in 1857. Reconvalescence in the Alpine, in particular from tuberculosis, was another important branch of tourism in the 19th and early 20th centuries: for example in Davos, Graubünden. Due to the prominence of the Bernese Alps in British mountaineering, the Bernese Oberland was long especially known as a tourist destination. Meiringen's Reichenbach Falls achieved literary fame as the site of the fictional death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (1893). The first organised tourist holidays to Switzerland were offered during the 19th century by Thomas Cook and Lunn Travel companies. Tourism in Switzerland had been exclusively for the rich until it became widely popular in the 20th century.
Hiking is one of the main sports activities in Switzerland and is often referred to as the "national sport". About one-third of the population practises hiking regularly, with a total of 520 million kilometres (in 130 million hours) being travelled every year by the Swiss. Along with cycling, walking, in general, is the preferred form of mobility, regardless of social origins. The total hiking trail network is about 65,000 kilometres.
Main article: Lists of tourist attractions in Switzerland
Official statistics of tourism were planned in 1852, but were only realized in 1934, and continued until 2003. Since 2004, the Federal Statistical Office had discontinued its statistics, but collaborates with Switzerland Tourism in the publication of yearly "Swiss Tourism Figures". In the year 2011, a total number of 4,967 registered hotels or hostels, offered a total of 240,000 beds in 128,000 rooms. This capacity was saturated to 41.7% (compared to 39.7% in 2005), amounting to a total of 38.8 million lodging nights. 14% of hotels were in Grisons, 12% each in the Valais and Eastern Switzerland, 11% in Central Switzerland and 9% in the Bernese Oberland. The ratio of lodging nights in relation to resident population ("tourism intensity", a measure for the relative importance of tourism to local economy) was largest in Grisons (8.3) and Bernese Oberland (5.3), compared to a Swiss average of 1.3. 56.4% of lodging nights were by visitors from abroad (broken down by nationality: 16.5% Germany, 6.3% United Kingdom, 4.8% United States, 3.6% France, 3.0% Italy).
The total financial volume associated with tourism, including transportation, is estimated to CHF 35.5 billion (as of 2010) although some of this comes from fuel tax and sales of motorway vignettes. The total gross value added from tourism is 14.9 billion. Tourism provides a total of 144,838 full-time equivalent jobs in the entire country. The total financial volume of tourist lodging is 5.19 billion CHF and eating at the lodging provides an additional 5.19 billion. The total gross value added of 14.9 billion is about 2.9% of Switzerland's 2010 nominal GDP of 550.57 billion CHF.
The most visited Swiss tourist attractions are first, the Rhine Falls, second, the Berne Bear exhibit (both without entrance fee), and third, with over 1.8 million paid entries: Zoo Basel.
Most overnight stays in 2019 in Switzerland were from the following countries of residence:
|Rank||Country||Number of overnight stays|