Brief stay boom pressurises tourism industry

Growing interest in short-term stays and fewer German tourists left the Austrian winter tourism industry with a decline in overnight stays.Statistik Austria said today (Thurs) that hotels and guesthouses recorded 62.04 million overnight stays between November 2010 and April 2011, down by 1.1 per cent compared to the previous winter and around as many as in the 2006/2007 winter vacation period. With more than 47 million, the vast majority of overnight stays were booked by guests from abroad.Austrian tourism benefited strongly from rising interest in skiing holidays among residents of countries in Eastern Europe (EE). The number of overnight stays by holidaymakers from Russia soared by 26.4 per cent, while Polish tourists were responsible for 3.4 per cent more stays at hotels in Austria last winter than in the 2009/2010 season.These positive developments – linked to higher salaries and more wealth in EE and Central Eastern Europe (CEE) – were unable to compensate the overall decrease in overnight stays. Germany remains the most important market for the Austrian winter tourism industry despite a 5.7 per cent drop of overnight stays to 23.52 million. The province of Tyrol is the favoured destination of most German skiers and snowboarders, while Spaniards and Italians prefer city trips to Vienna and Salzburg in winter. Online polls show that more than half of Germans’ 100 most popular winter holiday destinations are situated in Austria.Detailed figures also reveal that the number of arrivals recorded by Austria’s hotels – which feature 1.1 million beds – last winter was by 1.9 per cent higher than in the previous cold season. Around 15.67 million people spent their holidays in the country between November 2010 and last month. These statistics confirm the worldwide trend that shorter stays are increasingly popular, especially since the recession has forced many people to calculate their vacation budget more carefully than ever before.Statistik Austria research shows that tourists stay an average four days in Austria in winter, down from 4.6 days 10 years ago. These developments and the effects of the crisis have meant that many hotel managers fully focus on offering package deals for long weekends and other special cut-price alternatives to the old-fashioned Saturday-to-Saturday travelling routine.The agency added that the number of overnight stays declined most strongly in the western province of Vorarlberg last winter compared to the 2009/2010 season at 4.7 per cent. Carinthia (minus four per cent), Salzburg (minus 1.8 per cent) and Tyrol (minus 1.6 per cent) also fared badly. Vienna achieved the highest increase at 6.1 per cent, followed by Upper Austria with 2.6 per cent and Lower Austria (plus two per cent).Every third winter sport booking in Europe is made in Austria, according to international travel statistics.People’s Party (ÖVP) Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner said the domestic tourism industry did well in the past winter season considering international competition and comparably low amounts of fallen snow in the Austrian Alps.Mitterlehner said he was especially pleased about the “new mixture of holidaymakers.” The minister claimed Austria will remain solid in the coming years despite a possible drop of overnight stays from “traditional markets” like Germany thanks to more tourists from CEE.The ÖVP deputy chairman added he was confident that the country’s summer tourism businesses will have a good season this year because of the “general economic upturn in the whole of Europe.”The Austrian tourism industry is an essential aspect of the country’s business activities as it generates around 18 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Hotels and guesthouses have focused on marketing endeavours in neighbouring Germany for years. Some travel analysts say businesspeople neglected trying to attract guests from elsewhere in the world at the same time.