Anger as WKO set to abandon €8mn ÖW injection

Officials have engaged in a bitter war of words after the Federal Economy Chamber (WKO) decided to stop subsidising the Austrian Tourism Marketing (ÖW).WKO said recently it will end its annual eight-million-Euro injection from 2012 and intensify its own tourism marketing initiatives instead. The authority criticised the ÖW for neglecting emerging markets like Brazil, India and China.Now ÖW boss Petra Stolba said her agency “has been active in the world’s most important markets.” She stressed today (Weds) she agreed emerging countries must be considered, but also said “natural markets” in Europe should not be neglected.Stolba also explained ÖW was acting based on its monitoring activities which identify the world’s 40 biggest markets.Franz Hörl, the ruling People’s Party’s (ÖVP) tourism affairs spokesman, said WKO’s decision to stop financially supporting ÖW was a “solo effort leading to the wrong direction”.ÖW Vienna chief Norbert Kettner said the WKO was “carelessly threatening” Austria as a tourist location. The Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the Greens also criticised the WKO, which is closely linked to the ÖVP, over its decision to stop subsidising ÖW’s efforts.The tourism sector is regarded as one of the most important branches of the Austrian economy. The country registered around 80 million overnight stays in 2009 of which 57.7 million were booked by foreigners. This is an overall 2.9 per cent year on year decline. Hotels across the European Union (EU) suffered a 5.1 per cent decrease at the same time.