Tourism secures jobs and thereby generates income and prosperity – particularly in regions and valleys with little or no industry. As a result, the tourism industry has a significant economic impact. Over 15 per cent of Austria’s gross domestic product (GDP) was generated by the tourism and leisure industries last year. And the effects on employment are also noteworthy. Nearly one fifth of all full-time jobs in Austria are directly or indirectly tied to tourism. That is no surprise really, considering that the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber represents over 90,600 member businesses. And even the number of start-ups, totalling 2,500 businesses in 2010, proves that tourism is one of the growth industries – but not only in Austria’s economic landscape. Tourism is growing around the world at a faster pace than the economy as a whole. This is also documented in the global ranking. In regard to the absolute figures, Austria, a small country, holds strong in eleventh place worldwide when it comes to arrivals. In terms of turnover per capita from international tourism, Austria always holds the second or third place in worldwide rankings.
However, all these wonderful conditions does give rise to one important question: What would the most splendid view, the tastiest meal, the clearest lake or the most interesting theatre evening be without the hospitality and heartiness with which holidaymakers in Austria enjoy all of these pleasures? Our guests do not come to Austria solely for the unique combination of nature and culture, tradition and the modern or Austrian cuisine. They also, or primarily, come because of the pleasant encounters they experience with the people who live in Austria. Perhaps it’s the friendly bed and breakfast host who serves your morning coffee with a smile and remembers that you prefer an extra small pitcher of milk with your coffee. Or perhaps it’s the lodge hosts who like to share some of their anecdotes about life in the Alps and who reveal the otherwise secret mushroom patch to guests they find particularly charming.Or maybe it’s the friendly ski instructor, who uses a bit of encouraging humour to help the youngest beginners overcome their inhibitions before their first downhill run. But it’s due primarily, and this should not be forgotten, to the fact that Austria has hosts that do all they can to ensure their guests’ holiday enjoyment. The well-established tradition of hospitality makes Austrians particularly professional and talented hosts. They anticipate the needs and wishes of their guests and offer their help with great care. They create the conditions and infrastructure for creative and interesting offers and they encourage their guests to be open to new experiences. In doing so, Austrian hosts make it possible for holidaymakers to discover their own personal path to a zest for life and self-fulfilment. It is the encounters with the people of this country, along with the beautiful and unique natural settings, that contribute to a wonderful holiday experience. Encounters with this hospitality and warm-heartedness are what makes unforgettable and intense holiday experiences possible. These last for a long time and thus are experienced as the source of happiness and inspiration. In this way, guests experience a time they will always remember. These experiences, which guests enjoy in and together with the holiday destination Austria, have another positive side effect. When businesspeople have a certain impression of a country and perhaps have travelled to it on holiday, the next step in doing business – which comes down to trust – is easier to accomplish. Domestic tourism therefore also opens the doors for the export economy. The tourism brand and that which the Austrian tourism industry carries out to the world is in any case an important feature of the location and of the importance of our country.
The author (born in 1964) has Master’s degrees in journalism, communication sciences and business administration as well as a doctorate in political science. Petra Stolba has been the department head for national tourism policy in the Federal Ministry for Economy and Labour, managing director for tourism and leisure industry for the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, among other positions. Since 2006 she has been the general director of the Austrian National Tourist Office.