Green light for disputed €18mn Hilton project

A controversial hotel conference hall building project has been given the go-ahead by Viennese officials.The majority of members of the Vienna-Leopoldstadt construction affairs council approved the Hilton Vienna Danube hotel’s plan to set up a hall for 18 million Euros. The site will be used for various events like balls and conferences, according to managers of the four-star hotel located at the Handelskai waterfront.Yesterday’s (Tues) decision comes after local residents voiced concerns their apartments will suffer in value as the new building – which will be officially opened in autumn – blocks their views over the Danube River. Some reports have it that angered tenants plan to address the City Hall with their concerns in a bid to stop the construction, which is set to start soon, from getting underway.The Hilton Vienna Danube is currently undergoing extensive renovation operations while doing business as usual. The hotel, which was previously part of the international Holiday Inn chain, is well known for accommodating the Austrian football national team before matches in Vienna.The Hilton hotels company also manages two more hotels in Vienna, both five star resorts located in the Innere Stadt city centre district.News that the four-star resort will pour 18 million Euros into the construction of a conference and events centre come only weeks after a five-star hotel started operating in the district of Leopoldstadt.French architect Jean Nouvel created the design of the Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom which opened its doors to holidaymakers last month. The hotel features more than 180 rooms.Award-winning French chef Antoine Westermann is at the helm of the 18-storey hotel’s “Le Loft” restaurant which offers a panorama view across the city.Only a few days ahead of the grand opening of the Sofitel, a tourism industry official expressed concerns of growing pressure by a string of new hotel projects in the capital.Michaela Reitterer, head of the Austrian Hotel Industry Association’s (ÖHV) Viennese department, said she feared many hotel bosses could see themselves forced to reduce prices in the near future as 14 new hotels are planned in the city.Reitterer explained the new resorts will increase the number of hotel rooms in Vienna by 4,500 to 31,200. The ÖHV Vienna head explained that, despite a strong increase in overnight stays, the occupancy rate of hotels in the Austrian capital has declined in past years as holidaymakers and business travellers were strongly affected by the economic downturn.Hotels in the Austrian capital recorded 969,000 overnight stays in October last year, up by 3.7 per cent compared to figures recorded in the same month of 2009. They currently charge an average 127 Euros per night, according to hotel price comparison agent Trivago (