The number of cableways is in constant decrease since 1990. There are currently 1749 cableways in Switzerland and the majority of these cableways are ski lifts (862 in 2012). Most of the cableways are related to ski resorts (ski lifts, cable cars, chair lifts, etc…). The canton Valais, Grisons and Bern dispose of most of them (35% for the canton Valais, 28% for the Grisons and 14% for the canton of Bern).
The most important seasons are winter and summer. Even though winter is almost equally important for every installation, summer season is very different from one place to another. A cableway with a good summer season will have more summer activities near it (for example walking paths, mountain biking routes, etc…). The seasonality is certainly a problem for most of the cableways installations in Switzerland.
According to the RMS (Remontées Mécaniques Suisses), the “skiers-days” are stable since 2006.
In term of society we can notice that most of the tourists who come in ski resorts are Swiss people and they are mainly some adept of winter sports, hikers and simply nature’s lovers.
An important point to know is that foreigners are not coming to Switzerland only in winter season for skiing. Some of them prefer to come during the summer season. Therefore cableways try to develop as best they can summer offers by offering some activities such as hiking, mountain bike, climbing, paragliding, and so on.
According to some estimations, one fifth of the tourists of ski resorts in the world come from Asia, where there are few infrastructures for skiing. Due to macroeconomic and bad weather conditions, the number of visitors is decreasing on almost all the main markets since the exceptional winter of 2008/09.
Concerning the employment, Cableways employ nearly 13’000 people through the year. The number of collaborator stayed relatively constant during 10 years despite bad weather for some seasons.
For 2014, BAKBASEL reckons an increase of the turnover notably due to the strong comeback of the tourists.
Moreover, at the moment, Swiss cableways (RMS) promote a lot of winter camps in order to motivate schools to suggest more camps and offer to young people the possibility to initiate themselves into winter sports.
The nature is the most important asset for tourism development and thus, for cableways. Cableways are aware of that and consider detaining the obligation of taking the best care of natural resources.
In that sense, ecology and economy aren’t necessarily contradictory.
Main problem in 2012 and for the coming years
Climatic changes have a crucial importance. They concern more the winter months than the summer. During the summer and the other seasons, climate modifications and their influence on the cableways companies are less important.
Climatic changes bring warmer weather and thus, winters are getting closer to springs. Snowfalls are decreasing but more intense, combined to more important temperature variations. There is nothing to do to guarantee snowfalls at any time, which put in stand-by sport and winter tourism
In the future, the average snow coverage limit will increase to more than 1500 metres.
The solutions can be artificial snowing and creating new infrastructures and replacing infrastructures exclusively at more than 1500m.
Outlook cableways 2012-2015
Corresponding to the last evaluation of BAKBASEL, the turnover of the cableways sees a drop of 2,2% in comparison to the previous year.
According to RMS, the winter season has been very successful snow cover, which attracted mainly Swiss customers. Moreover due to exceptional and convenient weather forecast during the holidays. Nevertheless the dissuasive impact of the exchange rate on the tourist travelling from the euro zone has brought the turnover down. However, looking on the bright side, the summer season should be more profitable, but there will still be slight turndown.
At the beginning of the touristic year 2013, BAKBASEL is counting on a noteworthy growth of the turnover which has been gradually declining throughout the last three years. On the other hand, BAKBASEL also states that the Swiss households are the ones boosting the turnover which is keeping it at a stable rate. Thus, the number of Swiss tourists coming to ski only on a daily basis, are the essential customers to bring up the turnover.
In 2014 and 2015, the cableways are reckoning on an increase of 3% of their turnover. The reason is, the tourism demand for stays will grow again, after a couple of hard years for the alpine tourism.
As a key product in the added value chain, cableways are often seen as the main force of the tourist destination in the alpine area. They are directly affected by the climate change and in order to prevent some of those changes they have to work closely with the others tourism suppliers to adapt and optimize the destination offer.
Considering longer and hotter summer seasons, they can help make the alpine destination more attractive by developing summer sports like hiking or mountain biking, which are reasonable investments in the short term. As well, they can help alpine destination look healthy and cool during some midsummer heat and create and new demand for people seeking for some freshness.
For long term investments of stations over 1500m, according to the forecasts of the Swiss Meteorology Office, artificial snowing has to be thought in a sustainable way. Indeed, artificial snowing consumes a huge amount of electricity and water. We know that electricity can be created in green ways in the alpine area (mostly by solar panels) but water will certainly become a precious resource in future and cableways companies will have to make sure they can stock it, by creating some accumulation pond and drainage systems.
To conclude, in a very competitive market, the future for cableways in the short term is definitely about diversification and partnership with the other suppliers in order to forecast climate change and customer’s demand.
Julia, Johanne, Elena, Anne and Guillaume