Hotels defy cold snap concerns

The Austrian tourism industry is heading for a new record after fears were raised it could suffer significantly due to last month’s chilly weather.

Many experts warned that a decline in overnight stays may be a result of the many rainy days and unusually cold temperatures vast parts of the country experienced for the most of July. Now figures confirm a slight decline of overnight stays that month compared to July 2010 when, with 1.484 million, 0.7 per cent more overnight stays were recorded. However, the overall picture is less bleak.

Statistik Austria announced yesterday (Thurs) the country’s hotels – which feature 1.1 million beds – counted 30.36 million overnight stays between May and July. This is an increase of 1.7 per cent compared to the same time span of last year, according to the agency. The number of arrivals soared by 4.3 per cent to 9.19 million. This figure means a new record for the Austrian tourism industry.

Especially increases of arrivals and overnight stays by foreign holidaymakers has helped the domestic tourism industry to a strong performance so far this summer. The number of overnight stays by people from Germany – which is Austria’s most important foreign market – rose by 1.2 per cent to 10.71 million. Figures for overnight stays by guests from Switzerland (plus 8.3 per cent) improved as well while statistics for vacationers from the Netherlands, another key market, declined by 0.3 per cent.

Some analysts and tourism sector insiders recently said they were convinced city hotels and spa resorts would benefit from the low temperatures which had Austria in their grip some weeks ago. Lakeside guesthouses, which deplored a lack of guests during that period, are overjoyed at the moment as the alpine country is hit by an immense heatwave.

The new statistics also confirm that Austria keeps getting more popular in Central and Eastern Europe (EE), a region which the Austrian Tourism Marketing Agency (ÖW) plans to put a higher focus on in the coming years. Russians were responsible for 33.6 per cent more overnight stays at hotels and guesthouses in Austrian cities and the alpine nation’s countryside so far this summer than between May and July of the previous year. The number of overnight stays by tourists from Poland, the strongest economy in Eastern Europe (EE), jumped by 20.8 per cent.

Statistik Austria also had positive news regarding Austrians’ travel habits. The number of overnight stays of Austrians in hotels situated in their own country inched up by 0.6 per cent from May to July 2010 to the same time span of 2011 to 10.01 million. It is the first time in the registration of arrival and overnight figures that Austrians stayed more than 10 million nights in those three months of a year.

Figures for the first half of the current summer mean that the number of overnight stays rose by 0.2 per cent in the first six months of 2011 to 79.01 million compared to the same period of last year – despite a 3.5 per cent decline of arrivals by Germans. Especially Russians’ (plus 26.3 per cent) soaring interest to spend some days in Austria helped the domestic tourism sector to a solid performance.

Vienna is once more the driving force behind the positive developments. The city’s hotels counted nearly 5.1 million overnight stays by Austrians and guests from abroad in the first six months of 2011, 5.3 per cent more than in the same period of 2010.

The federal capital’s tourism industry celebrated a new record last year when 10.86 million overnight stays were registered, up by 10.9 per cent compared to 2009. Vienna’s previous record year was 2008 when several matches – including the final between Spain and Germany (1-0) of the European Football Championship took place at the city’s Ernst Happel Stadium. Austria and neighbouring Switzerland cooperated in hosting the tournament in which the Austrian national team failed to make it through the group stage and into its knockout rounds.