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Overtourism #5: have Austrian sites become victims of their own success? Part 2

The most pleasant city in the world to live in will continue to fascinate people with its baroque architecture and abundant cultural activity. Vienna is one of the top 10 most visited cities in Europe, alongside major urban tourism destinations such as Paris, London, Barcelona and Berlin. But its success is beginning to worry. In reality, it is mainly smaller destinations such as the birthplace of Mozart, Salzburg, or the alpine village of Hallstatt that feel overcrowded. Hospitality ON assesses the Austrian situation through a comparative analysis of these three case studies. Part 2: The Facts, Figures and the Solutions.

The facts and figures

Austria has seen a significant increase in overnight stays over the past ten years. This rise was even faster than the increase in arrivals, meaning that tourists are staying longer in the country. The increase in both overnight stays and arrivals is largely due to foreign customers. The latter resulted in 30.8 million tourist arrivals, up +4.6% (compared to +3.0 for Austrian visitors) out of a total of 44.8 million (+4.1%). Foreign visitors accounted for 110.4 million overnight stays out of a total of 149.8 million overnight stays in the country for a +4.2% increase, compared with +2.2% for national visitors, who accounted for 39.4 million overnight stays.

In addition to this high proportion of foreign tourists, which shows the destination's international influence, the Austrian market tends to absorb the seasonality effect during the year. Performances in the summer and winter seasons have grown increasingly similar over the last ten years. The demand is increasingly shifting to winter, when snow destinations enjoy great success. But summer still remains the highest season of the year with 55.1% of arrivals and 51.5% of overnight stays recorded. This good level of activity year-round makes it possible to limit peaks in arrivals that could be a source of frustration for residents.

This stable level of activity is reflected in the monthly occupancy rate (OR). It fluctuates between 52% and 86% from September 2017 to September 2019. The lowest period is usually from January to March, but it has tended to improve over the past two years. During this period of the year, the OR increased from 52% in January 2018 to 59% in January 2019, from 58% in February 2018 to 61% in February 2019 and from 68% in March 2018 to 72% in March 2019. On the other hand, the months with the highest activity have stagnating or declining performances. Thus, in June 2019, the OR fell by 1.58 points compared to the same month the previous year, and in September 2019, it fell by some -0.90 occupancy points compared to the same period in 2018.

Average Daily Rate (ADR) rose significantly during the winter season, from September to December, and during the summer season, which extends from April to September. Rates fluctuate only slightly during the period of low activity, between January and March, for the years 2018 and 2019. This small variation can be explained as an incentive to push demand into periods when arrivals are rather low; high periods, instead, have experienced very high inflation, meaning that demand is very high and that growth should be limited by setting dissuasive rates.

As for the level of activity from a geographical point of view, the ratio is becoming very unbalanced. There is a real geographical concentration of overnight stays, whether between regions or between cities. The top ten destinations account for 37% of all overnight stays in summer and 43% in winter; among these destinations are Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck; the other cities are located in the Alpine regions.

Indeed, the Alpine regions represent 65% of national overnight stays. The grand champion is the Tyrol region with almost half (45.6%) of the national volume of overnight stays. Visitors are divided between Innsbruck, the regional capital and country's third most visited destination in summer, and alpine resorts such as Sölden, Ischgl, Neustift im Stubaital, Seefeld in Tirol, Tux, Wildschönau, Längenfeld, or Eben am Achensee. These towns have strong performance mainly during winter, when tourists enjoy winter sports such as skiing. Some alpine towns are also visited during summer, such as Seefeld in Tirol, Tux, Wildschönau, Längenfeld, or Eben am Achensee.


The solutions?

In Vienna, a regulation of public space has been taken into account, by limiting shoplifting in the streets in the city centre. Nevertheless, the city wants to continue to develop its tourism, in order to increase the industry's GDP from €4 billion to €6 billion per year, and tourism accommodation revenues from €900 million to €1.5 billion.

To limit traffic jams and relieve congestion in the centre, Salzburg has taken several measures on road traffic management. First of all, a free car park has been set up at the exhibition centre. From there visitors can leave their cars and use a shuttle bus to reach the old town. Also, guided tours of the old town are limited to 25 people per group. Tourist buses have to make an online reservation to book their departure and arrival time to and from one of the two terminals at the bus station.

The authorities of the province of Salzburg have decided to close the highway exits (Tauernautobahn) during the high season. This solution is meant to reduce traffic congestion in the agglomeration by preventing cars from using exits in the event of traffic jams on the highway. The measure has been applied since 13 July 2019, between the hours of 6am and 8pm.

Hallstatt will limit the number of coaches from next spring onwards thanks to a system of slots. This should ease the flow of day-trippers while allowing a better reception of tourists, especially those who visit the area for a couple of days.


Innsbruck, Tyrol
Innsbruck, Tyrol


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