Vienna’s economic strength slides

Vienna is no longer one of the 10 richest regions in Europe.

Eurostat, the European Commission’s (EC) statistics and research organisation, announced yesterday (Tues) that Vienna made 11th place in its latest check covering the whole European Union (EU). Eurostat said the Viennese area’s economic power was 161 per cent if 100 per cent was taken as EU average. This performance meant that the Austrian capital was knocked down one spot compared to the previous analysis.

The City of London, Great Britain, tops the ranking with 332 per cent. The British capital’s centre is miles ahead of the city of Luxembourg (266 per cent) and Belgian capital Brussels (223 per cent). Hamburg was identified as Germany’s richest city. The picturesque port city situated in the country’s north achieved 188 per cent.

Vienna’s power brokers might be concerned by news that Bratislava, the federal capital of Slovakia (178 per cent), and Czech capital Prague (175 per cent) fared better than the Austrian capital city in the Eurostat investigation. Both cities can be reached conveniently from Vienna by train, car and coach.

Especially Bratislava is turning into an increasingly attractive one-day holiday destination for residents of north-eastern Austria thanks to excellent motorway links and attractive railway services. Seventy trains operate between Vienna and the Slovakian city a day. The trains colloquially known as Bratislovers registered 1.7 million passengers last year, 400 per cent more than when the nonstop link was introduced 10 years ago.

Prague and Bratislava needed several years to get anywhere near Vienna’s economic power after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Now more and more Austrians are flocking to Prague to spend a few days off in the city which has developed into one of the most popular holiday destinations in Central Europe. Vacationers are not only enjoying the city’s sights, museums and bustling downtown squares.

Prague’s reputation among tourists is also on the rise thanks to shops’ comparably low prices. The city’s hotels beat their Viennese counterparts as well in terms of room rates. A standard double room in Vienna costs 124 Euros at the moment, according to global price check platform Trivago. The Trivago Hotel Price Index (THPI) shows that hotels in Prague are charging only 83 Euros on average for the same type of room.

Around 11.4 million overnight stays took place in Vienna in 2011 – more than ever before. Austrian Tourism Marketing Agency (ÖW) chairwoman Petra Stolba recently warned the Austrian tourism industry that “2012 will not be a walk in the park”. Experts think that the crisis will not keep people who used to take holidays on a regular basis from doing so in the coming months. However, their average per capita spending during trips is tipped to drop.

Europe’s poorest regions are situated in Romania and Bulgaria, Eurostat said yesterday. The institution also announced that Burgenland – which is located in eastern Austria – is the economically weakest area in Austria while Salzburg takes second place behind Vienna in a nationwide comparison. The western region of Vorarlberg takes third place.