Mag. Dr. Petra Stolba: Tourismusland Österreich – Travel destination Austria – a success story in figures and photos

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.

StubaiTirol_FamilyAction-KopieReiten-Kopie Mädchen-auf-der-Luftmatratze-KopiePicknick-Kopie

 There is often little understanding outside the industry of just how successful Austria really is as an attractive tourist destination. In 2010, more people than ever before spent their holiday in Austria. In total, the country welcomed 33.4 million guests, which represents an increase of 3.3 per cent compared to the previous year. All overnight stays together totalled nearly 125 million. This means that every day, the number of holidaymakers spending the night in Austria is equal to the population of Graz and Klagenfurt combined. However, far more important for businesses and the national economy is the question of how much money can be earned through tourism. The total expenditure made by all tourists in 2010 amounted to nearly 30 billion euros.

Those are impressive figures. But what is it that attracts millions of tourists to Austria each year? What is it that our guests value so much about Austria? What awaits those who spend their holiday in Austria? Let’s begin with nature’s offerings in our country: from the Alps to the Danube river, all the way to the Pannonian Plain, Austria is home to many natural regions found in Europe. To this day, the country offers an abundance of healthy, well-preserved natural spaces, mountains, forests, lakes and fertile soil. This landscape is dotted with many cultural treasures, such as the Wachau, the region around Lake Neusiedl and Hallstadt/Dachstein, which have in fact been declared as World Heritage sites.

StubaiTirol_Klettern-Kopie Seilbahn-c-Somweber-Kopie

Of course: diverse natural and cultural settings, old historic towns and cities and – not to mention – a pleasant climate are not only found in Austria. But what makes Austria truly distinct as a holiday destination are those conditions that are closely tied to the special people who live here, their individual story and their unique talents. It is the unique conditions that are founded in our past and which have a defining influence on our present and our path into the futureThis makes Austria a country that unfolds as the cultural centre of Central Europe. Austria combines tradition and the contemporary unlike any other country in Europe. Once the imperial centre of the Habsburg monarchy, Austria was ex­­posed to vibrant influences from eastern and south-eastern Europe as well as from Italy and southern Germany over many centuries. On this fertile soil developed Viennese classical, waltz and operetta melodies composed by Johann Strauss or Franz Lehár, as well as the Vienna Modern. The contemporary Austrian cultural scene is built upon the foundation of Austria as a cultural centre in Europe, which to this day has not lost any of its charisma or international appeal. For our guests this means: follow in the footsteps of great artists, discover regional cultural specialities, plunge into the vibrant city life and experience the magic of culture and the arts. However, Austria is also a country with savoir-vivre. Austria’s turbulent history, a pleasant and healthy climate and fertile landscapes have encouraged a very relaxed lifestyle to flourish. Characteristic for this is a warm-hearted attitude, appreciation for the fine things in life and the often-quoted “Gemütlichkeit” (cosiness). The Austrian spirit of life and well-being makes a lasting impression on our guest and enriches their lives. Gourmet restaurants, award-winning wines and regions famous for indulgence are only one expression of culinary creativity and the pleasure-seeking Austrian lifestyle.
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.

X100528_002-KopieThe 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.