30 Jan Discover culinary delights and welcoming hospitality in the Alps
Petra Stolba, CEO of the Austrian National Tourist Office, explains why tourists keep coming back to the Alpine country
What is Austria’s unique selling point?
The main purpose of the Austrian National Tourist Office is to boost business and promote tourism in the country. We perform marketing activities abroad to increase our international scope and we ensure that communication is clear surrounding Austria as a tourist destination.
While we have to communicate all aspects of the country’s tourism, Austria’s most important unique selling point is different for different visitors. For many, it is the refined Austrian approach to hospitality—the country is world renowned for this warm, host-oriented and an interactive approach. Sometimes this escapes our notice, but thanks to extensive surveys we know that the Austrian touch is one of the reasons why tourists keep coming back for return visits.
At the core of traveling is the willingness to learn something new. This is what we try to communicate with our slogan: “Arrive and revive”. The idea is that, when you return home, you are revived and ready to continue with work having experienced a different way of life. We do not engage with mass tourism and offer an indulgent experience into the Austrian way of living: culinary delights and welcoming hospitality.
Austria is well recognized as a traditional country with a strong historical and cultural background. This combines with our natural resources: the ability to go up a mountain and see the view, enjoy snow and take in the scale of these huge mountains is a phenomenal experience! From enjoying the rich culture of museums, history and live music in Vienna, to then experiencing the Alps through skiing or hiking—it’s a winning combination.
How is tourism developing in Austria?
The rise of the new global middle class means increased disposable income and Europe as a whole stands to benefit, as it is one of the destinations at the top of this group’s travel hotlist. Indeed, Europe’s growth in tourism in 2017 was a whopping 8.4 percent, which far exceeds any other region.
Austria is a small country with 8.4 million inhabitants and we are proud that we often rank in absolute numbers as one of the world’s top 15 tourism destinations. The number of destinations has grown dramatically over the last century and competition is now rife. In spite of this, Austria continues to perform well not only in arrivals but, more importantly, in revenues and in 2016, we had a 2.3 percent market share of global tourism.
“From enjoying the rich culture of museums, history and live music in Vienna, to then experiencing the Alps through skiing or hiking—it’s a winning combination.”
Petra Stolba, CEO, Austrian National Tourist Office
As an industry, we have to make money and we are currently 16th best in the world at this, which we hope to improve. Crucially, as a predominantly Alpine country, there is no industry other than tourism in many regions. Winter sports and Alpine tourism are the main sources of income in places like Tyrol and it is, therefore, paramount that we manage a competitive tourism industry.
Hotels, for example, need to invest $2 billion a year to maintain high-quality accommodation. Furthermore, in order to guarantee that we make the most of Austria’s winter season, more than 70 percent of our slopes are equipped for artificial snow-making and, in addition to skiing, we now incorporate more all- round sports and activities. We are focused on the quality of our tourism, as this positively impacts revenues—affluent, high-income travelers are crucial to Austria’s success.
What are the key challenges you are facing?
The biggest challenge is digitalization and the way this transforms the business model. The customer journey for tourism starts with inspiration, followed by information and booking. In the past, the tourist board would be the go-to option for inspiration. Nowadays, everyone is able to upload content to any social platform, so our ski slopes now offer Wi-Fi because we know how important it is for skiers and Alpine enthusiasts to inadvertently promote tourism in Austria.
Is gastrotourism an important sector in Austria?
The combination of agriculture and tourism is a fantastic blend. Tourism takes place in a space and we are creating a magical one through gastronomy by building regional connections with food producers and suppliers, for instance. Austria has the largest percentage of organic food farming in Europe—we love organic and regional food, and we see a great opportunity in linking Austrian regions with their produce. Plus, gastronomy and local produce encourage consistent tourist arrivals in all seasons, as tourists book restaurants based on culinary delights all year round.