AUSTRIA has just concluded a very successful summer, with some destinations seeing a cent per cent increase in GCC visitors, prompting airlines to consider increasing flight frequencies, according to a statement from the Austrian National Tourist Office.
Traditionally, the most popular destinations for Middle Eastern travellers are Vienna, Zell am See and Salzburg, says Klaus Ehrenbrandtner, ANTO director for the Middle East.
“With the current trend for holidays in Austria, an increase of 35.2 per cent tourists from Arab countries have travelled to the capital Vienna since the beginning of 2008, In August, this number rose to a gain of 75.3 per cent over last year,” he said.
Zell am See has seen visitors increase by more than 20 per cent in July and more than 40 per cent in August. The popular cities Salzburg and Innsbruck have also gained, especially in August.
However, he added, the ‘newcomers’ among Austria’s popular holiday destinations did even better. “Gastein Valley, Kitzbühel and Carinthia have become ever more attractive to the guests from the Middle East. The stunning views of lakes and mountains have become popular to help recover from the heat at home. Gastein Valley alone has gained more than 100 per cent bednights from Middle Eastern guests this summer season.”
The trend has cause airlines flying to Austria to examine an increase in service frequencies, according to the statement. Currently, Austrian Airlines, Emirates and Qatar Airlines fly daily from Dubai and Doha; China Air operates three weekly flights from Abu Dhabi; and Saudi Arabian Airlines has announced an extension of its flights from Riyadh and Jeddah, which began as a test this summer.
Despite being a small country, Austria ranks among the top ten on the World Tourism Organisation’s list of the most-visited countries in the world.
Next year, the Austrian tourism industry expects 60 million bed nights in total, the statement said.
Less than six hours’ distance from all the major GCC airports, Austria provides the perfect mix for the expectations of Middle Eastern travellers, especially families. The cities of Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck attract with its cultural and culinary highlights, traditional coffeehouses, unique shopping possibilities and modern nightlife, while the pristine nature of Tirol, Salzburg and Carinthia inspires with more than 9,000 lakes and the Alps.
But what is a holiday in Austria without a decent souvenir? Shop owners were delighted with the trend among GCC tourists to visit Austrian shops. The Number one souvenir could have been crystal jewellery by Swarovski. At Swarovski Crystal Worlds, the theme park of Austria’s top brand, shoppers from the Gulf were queuing to get a nice gift this summer. The numbers of visitors from the Middle East has more than doubled. And the reopening of the Swarovski Crystal Worlds in December – after an extensive refurbishment – might bring even more next year, said Ehrenbrandtner.