Austria’s tourism sector was plunged back into lockdown this week – for the fourth time since the start of the pandemic.
It is the first country to take the drastic step, despite skyrocketing COVID-19 infection rates across Europe. Hotels, restaurants, bars and cultural attractions forced to close on Monday likely won’t be able to reopen until December 13 – leaving just 12 days until Xmas.
Of traditional Christmas markets from Vienna to the ski slopes of the Alps, there are many reasons why tourists flock to Austria during the holiday season. Businesses were no doubt hoping that the Christmas spirit would work some magic on their finances after two difficult years. So how are they doing now?
The luxury hotel always open for the lucky few
Inside the historic Sacher Hotel in Vienna, Christmas has already arrived. The lobby is decked out in its finery, though only a few lucky business travelers are there to see it.
One of them told owner and general manager Matthias Winkler that “he feels like a king because he has the whole building to himself”, which is quite impressive considering the 152 luxurious rooms at the hotel. ‘hotel.
Although he remains optimistic, Winkler says it was moving to see an increase in the number of guests coming to Austria – with visits approaching 70% of 2019 levels – before his growing confidence was interrupted by the announcement. lock.
Practice makes perfect, however, and one thing Sacher Hotel has learned over previous lockdowns is how to continue to bring his world-famous chocolate cake to the world.
Noticing that McDonald’s was one of the few places open in the city last year, the concierge began selling “Sacher Torte” at a small stall outside the hotel.
“We expected this to make a great story on Instagram, but probably not more,” says Winkler.
“This is completely wrong, people loved it.”
This time, they even make home deliveries, with other Viennese specialties like Wiener Schnitzel on the take-out menu. Some of the 16-18 year old staff also came up with the idea of making Christmas sweets in the kitchens and selling them to charity.
“You’d be surprised how much Christmas you’ll find there,” Winkler says of the interior of the hotel.
As the New Year approaches as well, they hope to welcome a large number of guests for the famous New Year’s concert, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic just down the street. No one knows yet if this will go ahead.
A clear signal is needed from the government in the coming days, Winkler says, to stem the tide of cancellations in the city.
“Another disaster” for some companies
Not all businesses feel so optimistic. A leading Viennese restaurant, whose owners did not want to be named, said “there is not much to say except that this is a disaster for our industry for the fourth time now”.
There is one recognition among many that while the lockdown is a big blow to business, it shows that health is a big issue in Austria.
“This containment is epidemiologically necessary,” he added. Vienna Tourist Office tells Euronews Travel.
“At the same time, this means a frustrating situation for Vienna as a tourist destination, where efforts have been made throughout the year to prepare for the important winter activity by also taking all necessary measures in accordance with the scientific standards.
“The pre-Christmas booking situation this year was promising, the recovery trends were clearly visible.
“However, the growing demand in recent months has proven that Vienna’s international appeal is uninterrupted. We hope that international travel will be possible again from December 13th.