Flights between the UK and Austria resumed on 1 August and UK travellers no longer need to prove a negative Covid-19 test result or quarantine on arrival.
Vienna Tourist Board Director Norbert Kettner explains how the city has fared during coronavirus and what visiting Brits can expect.
How’s Vienna been affected by Covid-19?
In 2019, Vienna recorded 17.6 million overnight stays, a record high for the city, with 83% from international tourism. For the first quarter of 2020, arrival figures were strong and with the city celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday in 2020, many special events, such as the premiere of Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio, and exhibitions were planned which had to be cancelled, made virtual or extended until visitors could return to the city.
The Sigmund Freud Museum was also due to reopen following major renovations in May, which has now been postponed to 29 August, and the brand new Albertina Modern museum for Modern and Contemporary Art, which houses a collection of over 60,000 artworks, was forced to remain closed just days before its grand opening. It’s now open to the public.
When did Vienna close to tourists?
Strict lockdown measures were taken at a comparably early stage around mid-March, which proved efficient in helping to stem the spread of the virus, enabling Vienna to begin reopening cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels in May.
How much business do you think the city has lost so far?
We anticipate a loss in tourism revenues of approximately 50% with a reduction of 45% in overnight stays. Overall, we predict that Covid-19 will cost the Viennese tourism industry at least €1.9 billion. While reopening to European travellers has been a positive step for the city, long distance markets such as the US and China also account for a large proportion of our visitors.
How’s Vienna managed its reopening?
On 29 May, Vienna’s Mayor turned the iconic Ferris Wheel back on after it was switched off for the first time in its 75-year history. At the same time, the city’s hotels and other iconic attractions, such as Schönbrunn Palace and the Tiergarten, the House of the Sea, the Spanish Riding School, the Belvedere museum and many more, opened their doors once again with social distancing and increased sanitary regulations in place. Then from mid-June, our borders with neighbouring countries began to reopen.
The Austrian Professional Hotel Association at the Vienna Economic Chamber and Vienna Tourist Board have joined forces to support accommodation partners with Safe Stay, a new accreditation seal developed specifically for Vienna.
We’re also participating in the WTTC’s Safe Travels initiative to demonstrate how Vienna’s tourism industry adheres to the very highest health and safety standards.
The Vienna Tourist Board has drawn up a detailed set of guidelines for the hotel industry regarding how to proceed in the event of a suspected Covid-19 case in an accommodation facility. For suspected cases of Covid-19 where people cannot self-isolate at home, Vienna has allocated quarantine facilities for around 6,000 people.
What about attractions?
Mozarthaus, St Stephen’s Cathedral, museums and restaurants can be visited without severe restrictions. In most indoor spaces, total capacity regulations apply to ensure there is enough space for visitors to practice social distancing.
Vienna is also preparing for an ‘on/off economy’ situation where restrictions may be lifted and then partially reinstated. We believe this will become our reality and strategy in many sectors, not just tourism. For example, right now the capacity regulations for events in seated venues is 250 people maximum for indoor venues and 500 people for outdoor venues.
From August, this will increase to audiences of 500 people being allowed indoors and 750 people outdoors while September will increase to 1,000 people indoors and 1,250 outdoors. However, these regulations will be closely monitored and adapted if necessary, so visitors are advised to check the latest updates with the venue directly closer to the event date as these regulations are subject to change.
Has the target market changed?
I think there has been a notable shift towards quality of life, safety and cleanliness becoming a destination’s core USPs for marketing.
How are you enticing visitors to come back?
The Austrian National Tourist Office was given an additional budget of €40,000 by the government to drive domestic tourism in the first instance. Furthermore, in order to support the sectors that were hit the hardest by the pandemic, a temporary tax reduction was introduced in Austria on items such as food and beverage products sold in restaurants and museum entry tickets to 5% from 10% or 20% (depending on the product). This reduction will remain in place until 31 December.
Find out more about Vienna’s reopening here.
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