Vienna tops quality of life ranking

Vienna has retained its reputation as the most liveable city in the world in a global consulting group’s latest investigation.

Mercer said today (Tues) the Austrian capital made first place in its Quality of Living Survey 2011. Zurich in neighbouring Switzerland remains in second place followed by Auckland, New Zealand, and Munich, Germany. Dusseldorf in Germany and the Canadian city of Vancouver are tied for fifth place.

Vienna – which has 1.7 million residents – also topped the 2009 and 2010 editions of Mercer’s examination of political, social and economic criteria affecting the life of people in 221 cities around the world. Zurich came second last year as well. Vienna reached fifth place in a separate check on city’s safety. Luxembourg topped the ranking ahead of Bern in Switzerland, Finnish capital Helsinki and Zurich.

Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey 2011 results come only three months after the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) listed Vienna second out of around 140 cities in its own investigation of healthcare and education quality, political stability as well as crime figures. Melbourne in Australia made first place in the EIU’s ranking. Vancouver – which hosted the Winter Olympics 2010 – came third. The EIU is a think tank funded by British magazine The Economist.

Vienna has developed into one of the most popular destinations for organisers of international congresses. Its tourism sector’s focus on holidaymakers bore fruit too as, with 10.86 million, more overnight stays than ever before were registered by the city’s hotels and guesthouses in 2010. Experts did not expect the Austrian capital’s tourism industry to do better than in 2008, the previous record year, because of possible effects of the European financial crisis on people’s holiday budgets.

Over 31,000 beds will be available at Vienna’s hotels in a few years’ time as several hotels of all price categories are currently being built and renovated all over the city. Plans to turn a former bank headquarters into a five-star hotel suffered a setback earlier this month when a blaze raged through the well-known building in the heart of Vienna. Signa Holding, which oversees the construction, said it would restore the damaged rooms. The real estate company explained that the fire – which injured no one since it broke out at night – meant no delay to the opening of a Park Hyatt hotel scheduled for 2013.

Vienna – where Social Democrat (SPÖ) Michael Häupl became mayor in 1994 – is widely regarded as a city with excellent public service standards despite its complex bureaucracy and immense administration. People living in the capital can generally be sure of good health care services and a reliable public transport network. However, city hall officials have often been criticised for charging comparably high fees for services like garbage disposal and the provision with tap water.

It has to be seen whether upcoming increases in the price for these and other services – including fees for owning dogs, parking cars and buying single journey public transport tickets – will be taken into account by Mercer and EIU for its next examinations of quality of living in Vienna. The city coalition of the SPÖ and Vice Mayor Maria Vassilakou’s Green Party has been harshly attacked by the People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Freedom Party (FPÖ) for agreeing to the price hikes set to become effective next year.