Germans set to spend more on holidays as WKO – ÖW spat continues

A new German study has brought uplifting news for Austrian tourism sector businessman.Commerzbank said today (Weds) that it expects Germans to spend 3.5 per cent more on holidays this year than in 2009. The Frankfurt-based institute said its study suggests that Germans will fork out 61.3 billion Euros on holidays this year. The bank said this figure would surpass holiday spending in record year 2008.Germany is the most important market for the Austrian summer and winter tourism industry. Holidaymakers from the neighbouring country have made up the strongest share of tourists coming to Austria for years.More than 25 million overnight stays by 5.2 million Germans were registered by hotels across Austria in the 2008/2009 winter season. Most of them booked rooms in skiing resorts in Tyrol, Salzburg and other provinces, but hundreds of thousands also visited Vienna, Graz and other cities to enjoy the festive atmosphere before Christmas or to celebrate New Year’s Eve.Germans were responsible for around 21.3 million of the overall 56.2 million overnight stays that were registered in Austria’s nine provinces between May and September 2010.Research results presented by Commerzbank today also show that Germans will retain their reputation as the busiest holidaymakers in the world with more trips and overnight stays than US Americans, Chinese and Britons.Many Germans who initially planned to go on holiday eventually decided to stay at home last year when the economic crisis affected countries all over the world. Commerzbank researchers said today that the new travel hype can be linked to the fast recovery of the country’s economy.The bank’s survey also showed that a stay in Austria costs Germans around as much as holidays in their own country, while Denmark was identified as one the most expensive countries visited by Germans. The Czech Republic was found to be the cheapest holiday destination for people from Europe’s most powerful economy.Meanwhile, the feud over the amount of subsidies the Austrian Tourism Marketing Agency (ÖW) will receive from the Federal Economy Chamber (WKO) intensifies.The WKO decided in December to cancel its agreement with the ÖW over providing eight million Euros per year for its activities. The authority, which holds a 25 per cent stake of ÖW, said it will focus on its own tourism marketing initiatives. WKO officials have criticised ÖW for some time for allegedly failing to promote holidays in Austria among Austrians. They have also accused ÖW of not operating in enough international markets.ÖW head Petra Stolba reacted by stressing that her agency has been acting based on results of its monitoring activities which identify the world’s 40 biggest markets. Stolba pointed out she had not considered stepping down following the criticism for one moment.WKO President Christoph Leitl said yesterday that a final decision over whether his authority will slash its subsidies to ÖW has not yet been made. Leitl argued the possible reduction or end to payments would be part of a structural reform and had nothing to do with an alleged disagreement about ÖW’s decisions.Leitl also said the possible decision to lower WKO’s spending to ÖW was “not a threat”. He explained: “I hope a mobile discussion over the issue keeps going.”The WKO boss however stressed his opinion that ÖW had done too little in promoting Austrian as a holiday destination among the country’s own residents.Pollster Karmasin said earlier this month that 17 per cent of Austrians plan to invest between 2,000 and 5,000 per capita on holidays this year. “It seems many Austrians are in a more generous mood now than they were one or two years ago,” the public opinion research firm said.People’s Party (ÖVP) Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner claimed ÖW will remain strong in the future regardless of whether the WKO eventually stops its financial support for the agency. Mitterlehner explained he would tap the ministry’s Go International fund – which was recently set up to encourage Austrian companies to do business abroad – to keep ÖW’s budget on the same level.Stefan Markowitz, the Alliance for the Future of Austria’s (BZÖ) tourism affairs spokesman, appealed on officials to end their war of words. “The current debate only harms ÖW and Austrian tourism.”Austria is the second-most popular tourism destination in the world behind Switzerland as 2.3 per cent of all trips occur in Austria. The Austrian tourism sector contributes between 15 and 18 per cent to the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of the country.