Österreich Werbung (ÖW), the Austrian National Tourist Office, is Austria's national tourism marketing organization supported by the country's Federal Ministry of Labor and Economics and the Austrian Chamber of Commerce.
The figures available from 2021 (still a pandemic year) show that Austria welcomed 22.1 million guests (including 12.7 million international tourists), who spent 79.6 million overnights in the country – with extrapolation for 2022 showing better figures.
As Oskar Hinteregger, Head of Markets Hungary; Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Ukraine, Russia at Österreich Werbung points out to Diplomacy&Trade, “the overall results for 2022 are very pleasing indeed, as they are showing a strong recovery after two years severely affected by the pandemic. The Austrian tourism sector generated 39.79 million arrivals and 136.93 million overnight stays. This is a 75% increase in comparison to the year before and 10.3% less than the all-time high. Hungarian guests contributed 490,000 arrivals and 1.68 million overnight stays, thus remaining one of our Top 10 source markets. The figures for the current winter season are also very pleasing: November and December data demonstrate that Austria has almost reached 2019 levels. The current exceptional snow conditions will guarantee a skiing season until the end of April.”
Adapting to customer trends
He adds that in economic terms, winter (or the ‘snow season’) is a very important source of revenue. “More than 65% of our annual tourism revenue is generated during this period. At the same time, we are noticing over the recent years a considerable increase in demand for holidays during the spring, summer and fall periods. The chief reasons for this are a growing interest in outdoor activities – especially walking, trekking and cycling –, a hugely attractive offering of our cities as well as a generally changing consumer trend, to divide their holiday periods into more trips/breaks of shorter duration.” Austria manages to benefit from these developments also as far as Hungarian visitors are concerned. For them, Austria and its attractions and events are within easy reach. Hungarians feel especially attracted by music or culinary festivals, city breaks and new alpine outdoor experiences such as cycling, mountain biking or hiking, he explains.
Decline and recovery
In general, tourism is an important economic pillar for Austria, accounting (in the pre-pandemic year of 2019) for 7.5% of the country's GDP. However, the recent hard times have adversely affected it as well. “With tourism partly at a standstill, the contribution to the country’s GDP dropped to below 5% during the pandemic and is currently on the way to recover to former levels. Owing to various government measures and subsidies that were immediately made available, the sector has utilized this period for notable quality upgrades and extensions of its offering. The overall number of accommodation establishments and beds available has respectively increased by over 2% in all sectors (camping inclusive) by comparison to 2019. The largest increase of room capacity has been added in our capital city Vienna with growth figures showing an impressive 17.8%,” Oskar Hinteregger notes.
Climate change and sustainability
It is not just the pandemic but some of the impacts of global warming (like less snow in traditional ski resorts) adversely affect incoming tourism as well. As to how Austrian tourism copes with such challenges and what measures are taken to alleviate the problems, he states that it is not a question of less snow, but more of varying and rapidly changing weather conditions, like temperature rise. “In some parts of Europe, we have experienced he driest summer and now, in January, the most rainfall in Hungary in well over 100 years. Adapting to volatile situations and managing resources, developing and implementing action plans for a more sustainably remains an ongoing challenge,” he admits. “Just to put it into perspective – the Austrian tourism sector accounts for not more than 1.55% of the annual total energy consumption of the country. 54% of the tourism industries consumption is already generated from renewable resources. The electricity required per overnight stay has, in the last 15 years, been more than halved from 18.1 kWh to 8.4 kWh. In short, the sector is fully aware that our habitat and stunning alpine landscapes are amongst our most unique assets that require our utmost attention as their sustainable use is concerned. Figures demonstrate that further actions need to be taken. To that regard, as far as the National Tourism Organization is concerned, we have therefore added ‘sustainability’ to the core pillars of our organizations strategy, and we are currently working with the industry on structures and ways to highlight (also to the guests, of course) the ecologic footprint of any activity undertaken whilst in our country. At the same time, we are very much aware, that by far the biggest individual (pollution) challenge is the amount of CO₂ generated by travelling to and from any holiday destination. Our resorts and regions, together with the transport providers, are working on providing convenient alternative travel options to the car. The continuous development of attractive and convenient rail travel options is very much a current focus. When in the resort or in one of our alpine valleys, there are already sufficient options available, in order for the car to enjoy a holiday as well.”
Developing the ‘Holidays in Austria’ brand
Regarding the efforts at the Budapest office of Österreich Werbung to attract more Hungarians to visit Austria, Oskar Hinteregger highlights that their principal aim is to develop the brand ‘Holidays in Austria’ in order to raise awareness and develop the profile of the country as being one of the most desirable holiday destinations. “Thus, we offer assistance to the Hungarian travel trade in sourcing and promoting relevant offers, provide the Hungarian media with ideas and information about new products and initiatives to establish close contacts with relevant authorities, associations and stakeholders in the sector as well as various online information and communication channels directly to the Hungarian public in order to inform or give advice about entry regulations, tourism infrastructure, accommodation providers, attractions and events.”
Choosing a holiday destination nearby
As for the outlook for the year 2023 concerning incoming tourism in Austria, Oskar Hinteregger is quite optimistic that the recovery of the tourism sector after the COVID-19 pandemic will continue at pace, despite the economic and political challenges the world is currently facing. “After all, the visitors from Asia, and China specifically, are no longer affected by travel bans and keen to restart their travel activities. Research by all the major international travel organizations and associations underline that the people – despite having less disposable income – will not abstain from taking holidays. This seems also be the case as far as our main European source markets, which account for well over 80 % of our annual turnover, are concerned. Choosing a holiday destination in the vicinity remains a priority for the consumers in rather uncertain times.”
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