Heatwave hits Austria

The current week is expected to be the hottest of this year, meteorologists said today (Tues).

Experts explained this week’s top daytime temperatures of between 30 and 38 degrees centigrade were likely to make it the hottest week of the whole year. They did not rule out that previous temperature records for August could be broken in the coming days. The Central Agency for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) said the Lower Austrian town of Zwerndorf registered 38.6 degrees centigrade in August 2003, one of the hottest months in the past decades.

Ice cream parlour managers and pool bosses are welcoming the news while car clubs warn drivers to pay attention. Motorists’ association Arbö said today drivers’ focus was often worsening in the heat. There are usually more accidents on extremely hot days, according to the organisation. The hottest days of 2010 were 13, 14 and 15 July. An average 94 car crashes happened on these three days, up from around 70 on three days in the same time span of 2009. Experts appealed to drivers to take breaks, drink lots of water and abstain from speeding especially when the quicksilver soars.

Meteorologists explained they could already say with certainty that the current month would go down as one of the hottest since weather records started to be taken in 1767. Thunderstorms and a slight decrease in temperatures are expected for the weekend, according to ZAMG which warned of high ozone levels for the coming days. The agency also explained a significant decline in top daytime temperatures was expected for early September. High pressure and subtropical air from North Africa are responsible for the current conditions, ZAMG said, adding that nights were set to be hotter than usual as well in the remainder of this week.

The current heatwave comes just weeks after tourism bosses expressed fears of a decline in arrivals and overnight stays due to unusually cold temperatures. Experts like Petra Stolba, who heads the Austrian Tourism Marketing Agency (ÖW), explained more and more Austrians and foreigners were deciding on whether to go on holiday or not at short notice. Stolba explained the weather played a big part in people’s decision. Several weeks of June, July and the beginning of August were dominated by low temperatures, intense rainfall and chilly winds. Daytime temperatures did not surpass 23 degrees centigrade on several days of this summer.

Around 5.76 million overnight stays were recorded by Austria’s hotels in May, down by nearly 12 per cent compared to the same month of 2010. Tourism industry businesspeople were especially challenged by a decline of vacationers from Germany (minus 28 per cent), Switzerland (minus 21.3 per cent) and the Netherlands (minus 20.4 per cent). All three countries are of immense importance to the domestic tourism sector.

Things are looking much better for Vienna. The federal capital’s hotels and guesthouses counted 5.079 million overnight stays in the first six months of this year. This was an improvement of 5.3 per cent compared to the same period of 2010. More people than ever before visited Vienna in 2010. The city registered 10.86 million overnight stays that year. Vienna takes a share of 64.7 per cent in city tourism in Austria, according to figures provided by federal statistics agency Statistik Austria. Salzburg is second with 13.1 per cent of all city trip overnight stays recorded there. Innsbruck in Tyrol lies in third place(7.9 per cent).

More than 660,000 jobs are based in or linked to the domestic tourism sector. The sector is in charge of approximately 18 per cent of Austria’s gross domestic product (GDP).