Planning ahead pays off

Cable-car ride

Last year was tough for most European destinations targeting Middle Eastern guests, between the global financial crisis, the Swine flu epidemic and Ramadan falling during the busy summer months. However for Austria, 2009 saw only a one-per-cent decline in tourists and a four-per-cent decrease in arrival numbers from the Middle East.

According to Klaus Ehrenbrandtner, Middle East director for the Austrian National Tourist Office (ANTO), 2009 was a relatively good year with 360,000 overnights and 100,000 arrivals from the region. The key markets remained the same with Saudi Arabia taking the lead followed by the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar.

“We will continue all our B2B and B2C activities and campaigns in these areas in 2010,” said Ehrenbrandtner.

Planning ahead has contributed largely to these impressive numbers. “We have witnessed double digit growth from the region every year in the last five years and we were off to a good start in 2009. Since we knew that Ramadan would cost us a lot of overnights in August, we motivated our guests to visit the country in May and June. Summer in Austria begins at the end of April and people weren’t really aware of this. This was successful since we saw a growth of 31 per cent in the first half of the year and this was unique to us because other popular destinations like Switzerland and Germany saw a decrease of five per cent at the same time. If it weren’t for swine flu we would have seen an increase in arrival numbers.”

Ehrenbrandtner…marketing initiative

The average stay per destination by Middle Eastern guests is 3.6 nights and this has remained constant. However Ehrenbrandtner noted that guests are spending less time in Vienna and are keen to see other destinations such as Seefeld, Kitzbuehel and Zell am See.

For the last three years, ANTO’s main target has been to concentrate on its top 10 destinations in and around Austria including Vienna, Salzburg and Zell am See and also new regions like Kitzbuehel, Seefeld and Cornthia.

“Our biggest winner for 2009 was the province of Tirol with an increase of 50 per cent tourist arrivals last year. A lot of our travel partners too have now added these destinations into their programme,” said Ehrenbrandtner.

This year, ANTO will continue its B2B marketing initiatives with the ACTS (Austrian Certified Travel Specialist) programme and will introduce ANTO on social networking sites such as Facebook providing agents with the possibility to further explore their destination knowledge.

“The Middle East is still a small market, but a rapidly growing one and we need to continue our focus on developing these new destinations in Tirol. Neighbouring Munich is a hub for many Middle Eastern guests and our close proximity means more guest arrivals for us. Currently, more than 50 per cent of our arrivals are through Munich and we will continue to market our destinations to these guests as well,” he added

by Shalu Chandran