(Bloomberg) -- The strong franc didn’t keep international visitors from coming to Switzerland last winter as more tourists opted for spending the money they saved during the pandemic on trips to the Alpine country.

Swiss hotels counted the highest number of overnight stays on record — 17.4 million — between November and April, the Federal Statistical Office said on Tuesday, 18% more than in the winter before.

The boost was driven by foreign visitors returning after the Covid slump, with bookings up more than 40% to 8.1 million. Still, demand from abroad remained below its pre-pandemic level of 8.8 million nights in 2018/2019, suggesting further catchup potential in coming seasons.

Of those returning, American tourists led the pack — their stays increasing 88%. While all Swiss regions saw an increase of foreign travelers, among the ski region of Valais — famous for the Matterhorn and Zermatt — had the biggest jump overall. City visits to Zurich, Geneva and Basel did even better — all saw increases of around 45%.

Last year, the Swiss National Bank started relaxing its FX interventions, used in the past to stop the franc from appreciating. It did so primarily to keep soaring inflation rates elsewhere from being imported into Switzerland. That means the Swiss currency is comparatively expensive versus the dollar and the euro. 

--With assistance from Vassilis Karamanis.

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