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The Federal Tourism Policy, 1917-1955

Applicant Visentin Claudio
Number 132223
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Istituto di media e giornalismo (IMeG) Facoltà di comunicazione, cultura e società Università della Svizzera italiana
Institution of higher education Università della Svizzera italiana - USI
Main discipline Swiss history
Start/End 01.10.2010 - 31.07.2014
Approved amount 159'744.00
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Keywords (6)

Swiss National Tourism Office; Swiss Federal Railway; Administration; Institutionalisation; Promotion; Cultural History

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary

The Federal Tourism Policy, 1917-1955
Responsible of the project: Prof. Dr. Claudio Visentin, Istituto Media e Giornalismo (IMeG), Facoltà di Scienze della Comunicazione, Università della Svizzera italiana.

The project reveals the history of the Swiss National Tourism Office, the only tourism-related institution on the federal level. It contributes to the political, economical, institutional and cultural history of Switzerland in the first half of the 20th century.
The projects bases on the paradoxical situation that tourism has been economically very important and culturally formative for Switzerland, but this importance has not resulted in corresponding institutions as it did in other countries. Even the active research on tourism and in tourism history all over the world has not led to any knowledge on the political aspect of Swiss tourism history. Consequently, the project focuses on the only institution on the federal level in which the official tourism policy could - at least partially - manifest. The inclination of the administration in tourism in Switzerland can thereby be studied and shows how propaganda was instrumentalised by the administration for domestic reasons especially in the 1930ies and during the Second World War. The consequence can be felt even today for example in the fact that Swiss people has been considering themselves as a skiing nation.
The main aim is the identification and analysis of the institutionalised Swiss federal tourism policy in its beginnings and further developments focusing on the first federal institution for promoting Switzerland, the Swiss National Tourism Office. By means of the classical historical source interpretation and the economic approach of institutional economics its institutionalisation and integration into the federal economic and cultural policy are shown.
The project attracts the scientific research community as well as a wider public because it provides a first analysis of tourism policy by the federation in historical perspective, a first scientific business history of the Swiss National Tourism Office (and partly the Swiss Federal Railway) and contributes to the national history of Switzerland since it highlights the history of a economically very important and culturally formative branch of Switzerland which a lot of Swiss people are occupied with even today.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Name Institute


Tourism in a neutral country surrounded by war: The case of Switzerland
Müller Hansruedi/Amacher Hoppler Anna (2012), Tourism in a neutral country surrounded by war: The case of Switzerland, in Butler Richard/Suntikul Wantanee (eds) (ed.), 106-118.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Doctoral colloquium of the "Maison des Sciences historiques (MASH)" of the University of Neuchatel Talk given at a conference Création et développement de l'Office Suisse du Tourisme (Suisse Tourisme) (1917- 1955): Problèmes et chances des approches basant sur l'histoire administrative, l'économie institutionelle et les sciences sociales 19.10.2012 Neuchâtel, Switzerland Tissot Laurent; Amacher Anna;
International conference "Tourism as a factor of economic, technical and social transformations: a comparative approach (19th-20th centuries)" Talk given at a conference Extending the emerging market of the publicity industry? The Syndicat pour les intérêts de la Suisse romande et du Jura-Simplon (1890s) 10.11.2011 University of Lausanne, Switzerland Amacher Anna; Visentin Claudio; Tissot Laurent;

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: radio, television Storia del tourismo in Svizzera Radio Svizzera Italiana, RETE 2 Italian-speaking Switzerland 2010


The project is a contribution to the quickly increasing tourism history which, so, complements and challenges the numerous studies on tourism in the social sciences having been published for several decades. In a wider context, it falls into the field of social, political, cultural and national history. Focusing the tourism policy of Switzerland in the first half of the 20th century, the project makes the government’s role and influence on tourism in general and in promotional affairs in particular a subject of discussion which has been neglected so far.Considering the 1.continuous importance of tourism for Switzerland today, a culturally formative and economically important branch of the Swiss economy, 2.large research on the impact of tourism at an economic, political and cultural level for other countries all over the world, and3.research gap concerning the political aspect of tourism history on Switzerland, namely at the federal level,the main aim shall be the identification and analysis of the institutionalised Swiss federal tourism policy in its beginnings and further developments focusing on the first federal institution for promoting Switzerland, the Schweizerische Verkehrszentrale (SVZ). By explaining the foundation of the SVZ in 1917 her institutionalisation can be shown as well as her integration into the federal economic and cultural policy by describing and analysing her activities and relations to the federal administration mainly between 1917 and 1955.These considerations taken into account, the central question is: -How and why did the federation support, promote, control, demand and instrumentalise the tourism in Switzerland during the first half of the 20th century? How and why was the Schweizerische Verkehrszentrale created?This main question implies, indeed, the following sub-questions:-Which was the institutional framework? How did it emerge and develop? Why?-Who were the protagonists?-Which were the political, economical and social circumstances? Which influence did they have on tourism in Switzerland and on the Swiss tourism policy?-Which were the economical and cultural results of the tourism policy? How did the tourism policy look like? Which impacts did it have on the national identity? Which image of Switzerland was promoted abroad?In order to appropriately understand the so far unpublished sources of the federal administration (e.g. minutes, internal reports, letters) found mainly in the holdings of the Federal Archives, the classical historical critical source interpretation will be applied and backed by the economic historical approach of institutional economics.As the fundamental structure of the federal tourism policy from their beginnings until 1955 will be worked out for the first time, the research work will lay a fundamental base for further research on tourism history and history of tourism policy since it will reveal the institutional structure as well as the protagonists which both have not been analysed so far.Due to the highly international interconnectedness of the applicants and their different but supplementing specialisations it is planned to disseminate the results in the crucial journals and on conferences as well as to the administration and the interested public.