Austria goes on Mideast charm offensive

With Austria looking to woo Middle Eastern travellers, TTN sent S VIPULANANDA to the ACTB in Vienna to report on what the country has to offer – beyond Mozart, that is
Guests from the Middle East are charmed by Austria’s pristine nature

THE number of Gulf families visiting Austria for vacations is likely to see a sharp increase with key GCC tour operators forging additional partnerships at a recent travel fair in Vienna.

Austria's biggest incoming tourism trade fair – marketplace, industry meeting place and launching pad all rolled into one – ran from January 28 to 30 at the Messezentrum Wien, in Vienna, in an evolved form.
Business teams from the Middle East held many fruitful meetings at the Austrian and Central European Travel Business (ACTB) show, said Klaus Ehrenbrandtner, director, Middle East, at Austrian National Tourist Office (ANTO) in Dubai. For the first time, the event involved the four European nations of Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, reflecting tourists’ increasing desires to visit more than one country on holiday.
Speaking to TTN on the sidelines of the show, Ehrenbrandtner also said the number of arrivals (and bednights) from the Middle East to Austria had doubled over the past three years.
He said more than 75,000 guests from the region spent 270,000 nights in Austria last year.
The most popular Austrian destinations for guests from the Middle East are: Vienna followed by Salzburg City and Zell am See.
“The newcomers in the GCC market are Gastein, Innsbruck and Kitzbühel,” Ehrenbrandtner said.
Flight frequency to Vienna is also increasing steadily. Austrian Airlines daily from Dubai, Emirates daily from Dubai, Qatar Airways six times a week from Doha, going daily, and China Air thrice weekly from Abu Dhabi.
According to Ehrenbrandtner, guests from the Middle East are charmed by Vienna and Austria’s pristine nature with more than 9,000 lakes and the Alps and the country’s hospitality.
They also enjoy the wellness and culinary delights (or both in one: eg for those who try the Chocolate Spa in the world-famous Hotel Sacher in Vienna)
Addressing a press conference during the fair, ANTO chief executive officer Petra Stolba said the new office in Dubai would play a major role in promoting Austria as an excellent European travel destination in the region.
Stolba was heading the Department for Tourism and Leisure Management at the Austrian Chamber of Commerce before her appointment as the new CEO in November.
Johann Schenner, president, Tourism and Leisure Division, Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, also addressed the press conference, which was attended by more than 200 journalists.
More than 400 firms from Austria and 130 international companies presented their products and services at the ACTB, where buyers talked to exhibitors in pre-arranged interviews of 15 to 30 minutes each.
Several business divisions of the ANTO informed show participants about their services and expertise, highlighting the organisation's role as knowledge agency. The fair participants also attended a gala opening evening featuring a culinary and musical tour of Austria.
Among the regional players who attended were representatives from Thomas Cook Cairo; Mannai Holidays in Doha; The Land of Holidays, Arabsat Travel & Tourism and Al Zaabi Travels from Abu Dhabi, and from Dubai, Emirates Holidays and Paramount Tours.
With an abundance of natural beauty, spectacular mountain vistas, castles, cosmopolitan cities, the Danube River Valley, music festivals, and of course – world class Alpine skiing and resorts – Austria paints a very pleasant picture, for travel packages, said officials.