* Strong franc has hit tourism sector
* Visitors from Europe down 7.7 pct
* Guests from Asia up 12 pct
ZURICH, Feb 26 Overnight hotel stays in Switzerland fell 2 percent in 2012 as a rise in tourists from China and the Gulf States failed to offset the loss of guests from Europe who continued to be put off by the strong Swiss franc.
Overall, the proportion of overnight hotel stays by foreigners slipped 3.3 percent, the statistics office said on Tuesday. Stays by guests from Europe fell 7.7 percent, with the nights spent by German visitors dropping 11 percent and those spent by visitors from the UK down 9 percent.
Hoteliers and the tourism industry have been particularly hard hit by the strength of the Swiss franc, while austerity measures in neighbouring European countries have discouraged people from taking expensive holidays.
Despite the Swiss National Bank's cap on the franc's value at 1.20 per euro imposed in September 2011, the currency remains some 20 percent stronger in foreign exchange markets than before the financial crisis struck in 2008.
More tourists from Asia helped to partly compensate for the loss of European holidaymakers, with hotel stays by Chinese guests jumping 25 percent, while stays by visitors from the Gulf States rose by 24 percent.
The decline in overnight stays by Swiss guests was 0.4 percent last year. (Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)