How a virus, blown up by the media, the tourist destinations learns to fear. My personal impression of the situation in Zermatt
First, the good news. Perfect snow conditions are presently in Zermatt. The sun is shining, the atmosphere is good and we have no Corona cases at this moment here and the skiing area of Cervinia. So come up and enjoy some beautiful skiing days.
As I walk through the Main Street, everything seems to be the same. But a cough here, a cough there makes everyone sit up and take notice. Yes, it is flu season and normally it doesn't bother anyone here. But this year everything is different, there is this invisible enemy blown up by the media. The fear of the Corona Virus also finds its way into the Matterhorn village.
The locals including me have been easygoing with it so far.
But since Switzerland has also been in the focus of the media coverage, a lot has changed. The uncertainty of the tourists has become greater. The calmness of us locals has turned into nervousness. The telephones at service providers and hotels barely stop ringing. Many guests are insecure, worried and sometimes cancel their holidays. It seems that the mid season, which usually starts at the end of April, is going to hit mercilessly early this year. Hotels, restaurants and bars have to react to the current situation. Now it's time to keep the damage as small as possible, probably at the expense of the seasonal employees, who will have to leave much earlier than planned.
Absurd or not?
For a long time I thought that the current situation would not affect me as a ski instructor. My main customers are actually in a super cool mood, and the Corona virus won't change too much here either. Yet I was taught better.
Border crossing to Cervinia - Italy
As most of you know, Zermatt lies on the border of Italy. Our ski area and the ski area of Cervinia are connected. Well, the north of Italy belongs to the Corona risk areas. However, it should be mentioned here, that there are no corona cases in the Valle D'Aosta region. But English private schools - most of them in London - see things quite differently. My customers have informed me that as long as this border crossing remains open, the holidays must be cancelled. According to the regulations of some schools, the children would first have to go into quarantine for 2 weeks after the return to London. Just an absurd example that affects me personally. Especially as children are the least affected. (says the WHO)
Sure, the Corona virus is current. But in the meantime, it's spreading across Europe. Sure, as long as the border crossing to Italy remains open here in Zermatt, there is a chance that Italians ski in Zermatt or vice versa. But skiing is still an outdoor activity. The chance of infection is very small. Also most of the gondola and chair lifts have a riding time of less than 15 minutes - therewith, it is too short for an infection time... and is it not the case that the fresh mountain air is good anyway? I think the chance to get infected in a big city like London is much bigger. Time to come down - isn't it?
At the meantime even countries like Israel now enforce various entry regulations and quarantines of up to 14 days. These entry restrictions hit the tourism really hard.
But every crisis has something good, right?
The slopes are not so busy anymore, and if the weather forecast is correct, snow can be expected in the coming days. Then most of the powder snow belongs to us locals, seasonal workers and a few adventurous tourists who enjoy our mountain village to the full despite the virus. So let's rock the PowPow. An end of the season that nobody believed a few weeks ago.
The Summer months:
This is probably where I see the greatest opportunities. Since group tourism could be largely missing, there is the chance to return to more qualitative individual tourism. The mass of tourists have not done Zermatt any good in the last years. Zermatt was literally overrun, a thing that also annoyed us local people. Quality instead of quantity that have to be the goal.
Living with Corona
The virus is unlikely to disappear overnight. Let us hope that the media coverage will also become a little more objective and factual and that there will be less panic-mongering. This also applies by the way to politicians. But the virus also shows us how important the rules of hygiene are. All the important information can be found on the BAG's official website.
Zermatt at standstill, 29th March 2020
It has been a while and much has changed. Corona has turned the village of Zermatt into a ghost village. Restaurants, bars, shops, the whole ski area are closed. Only shops and service providers for daily needs are open.. Peace has returned, I have never experienced the Matterhorn village like this before.The locals and a few seasonal workers are among themselves. The daily hustle and bustle has disappeared. Somehow strange and yet maybe the right moment to reflect, to shift down a bit and be so thankful for what we have. Zermatt will awaken again, but I am sure it will be different.