Reviving pleasant memories while expecting new developments in Austria: Travel Weekly


You know what they say about the first impression that you will never get a second chance to do it. With this in mind, my feelings from Austria will always be overshadowed by my first visit when I was a young student living in Paris. It was cold and we arrived in Vienna on a scenic train ride from Paris to find a city covered in snow and radiating a fairytale charm.

I have returned to Vienna many times since then and have had the opportunity to explore some of the more trendy parts of the city along with its imperial grandeur, but the halo effect of this first visit remains.

Now that Austria is recovering from the pandemic constraints of the last two years, I have asked Michael Gigl, Regional Manager of the Austrian National Tourist Office for the US and Australia, for up-to-date information on visitors’ experiences today – including whether there are any outstanding protocols from Preventive Measures on with Covid and the impact of the Russian invasion on Ukraine.

In connection with the war, he said: “So far we see very few cancellations, but a noticeable slowdown in new reservations. I believe that many passengers are in detention.” Gigl noted that he sees this waiting attitude among his friends, who plan to travel around Europe for the summer season, but are a little late at the time of booking.

“Of course, counselors need to take into account the concerns of their clients [about the war] seriously. At the same time, the conflict is hundreds of kilometers away. As the desire to return to Europe is extremely strong, I think the best thing a counselor can do is prepare their clients for the trip. Be there and fully prepared when your clients are ready to make a reservation. “

More positively, Gigl emphasized that Austria is fully open to everyone, without the complex rules and restrictions that haunted us all here and abroad during the pandemic.

“Of course, governments and health officials are constantly struggling to find a balance between securing things for all and returning to normal,” he said.

Today, masks are still needed in most indoor environments, Gigl said, adding that since we have all learned that pandemic rules can always change, it is best to check for the latest information and updates.

The cathedral district of Salzburg is framed by the Austrian Alps. Photographic credit: Tourismus Salzburg GmbH

Rethinking the visitor experience

Like many destinations, Austria has taken a break from the pandemic tourism to review and fine-tune its tourism experience.

Outdoor dining, street cafes and the like have long been part of Austria’s experience, but what has changed has been the accelerated focus on a sustainable form of tourism that benefits both travelers and the local community, Gigl said.

“We are a country of family businesses – more than 90% of hotels in Austria are family-run. And ensuring that this tourism business sector overcomes the pandemic is untouched by our government.”

Most European specialists have predicted a boom in nature travel as people slowly resume their leisure travel, but it is difficult to imagine a visit to Austria without including some of its iconic places.

“It’s really easy to combine a city stay with a rural experience, and Salzburg is a great example because it’s right on the doorstep of the Salzkammergut lake area and the scenic beauty of the Alps,” said Gigl.

“Or take Innsbruck, the capital of the Alps, where the journey by public transport from the center to the top of the mountain takes only 20 minutes.”

When it comes to travel, Gigl said that while driving in Austria is easy for North Americans, more and more travelers are choosing to experience a private driver / guide.

Mountain biking in the Salzkammergut recreation area, which attracts outdoor enthusiasts in summer.

Mountain biking in the Salzkammergut recreation area, which attracts outdoor enthusiasts in summer. Photographic credit: Peter Burgstaller / Austrian advertising

Railway Renaissance

Rail transport in Austria, driven by its ecological pedigree, is also experiencing a renaissance, he said when Vienna established itself as a European hub for intercity night trains that connect Vienna not only with other cities in Austria but also with cities such as Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam. , Rome and Venice.

“Austrian Railways recently introduced these new Nightjet aircraft, which bring back the fun and romance of sleeping cars,” said Gigl.

Even for outdoor enthusiasts, it is likely that Vienna will be in the itinerary, especially since the city will usually be the place of arrival.

In fact, Vienna’s popularity with American travelers is such that even during the pandemic, the United States was the third most important market for the city’s tourism industry.

According to the statistics of the tourist office, 75% of visitors to Vienna come because of the rich cultural life. In the area between the University of Vienna and Karlsplatz alone, in an area of ​​less than half a square mile, visitors have a choice of almost 30 museums.

New cultural attractions this year include the reopening of the Lower Belvedere and the return of Heidi Horten’s collection to the Leopold Museum, which will feature works by Klimt, Schiele, Warhol and Picasso, among others.

Hotels on the horizon

As for the front of the hotel, the upcoming opening of the hotel in Vienna includes the five-star Rosewood Vienna, which will open this summer. The 99-room property will be the fifth Rosewood hotel in Europe and the first in a German-speaking country. Housed in a former bank building from 1830, the hotel offers a rooftop bar with city views, a garden restaurant serving European cuisine and the Rosewood Spa.

The 76-room Leo Grand Hotel is due to open this month, just a few steps from St. Stephen’s Cathedral in a listed building. The property pays homage to the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, who ruled from 1658 until his death in 1705.

In terms of access, Austrian Airlines will launch a direct flight from Los Angeles to Vienna from mid-May, strengthening the connection between the west coast and the Austrian capital.

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