Minister Elisabeth Köstinger Invites Neighbouring Countries to Tourism Talks

In light of rapidly rising coronavirus infections, Minister for Tourism Elisabeth Köstinger (Austrian People’s Party, ÖVP) has invited Austria’s neighbouring countries to a virtual tourism meeting on Monday afternoon. “We all want a safe winter season for our guests, so joint regulations between the involved countries are necessary and sensible,” said Köstinger.

Topics will include travel limitations and regulations for children under the age of 12.

Saving the winter tourism season is a political priority – tourism directly and indirectly accounted for 7.5% of Austrian GDP in 2019, before the pandemic hit, and 5.5% in 2020.

As of Sunday, Germany has said that (unvaccinated) children under 12 who travel to Austria must enter quarantine on return. This presented a problem for many families. “We have a solution in Austria with the Ninja pass, which allows children to have the 2G proof with regular and comprehensive testing”, said Elisabeth Koestinger. She wanted to make a similar proposal for Germany, so that children who take a PCR test would not have to quarantine upon entry or re-entry. (The Ninja pass, distributed in schools, uses color-coded stickers to indicate children’s 3-G status. Blue means a negative PCR test; green an antigen test; red means the child was tested outside of school, and gold means the child is vaccinated.)

Tourism was one of the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, according to the ministry of tourism. According to Statistik Austria, the number of overnight stays in Austria dropped by 35.9% between 2019 and 2020, and foreign arrivals decreased by 52.7%: In other words, as Metropole reported, it was a wash. The winter tourism industry pinned their hopes on the coming season, with officials – including Köstinger – telling the press there “will definitely be winter holidays in Austria.”

Most tourists in Austria come from Germany (37%), followed by 9% from the Netherlands and 3% respectively from Switzerland and Great Britain. According to a study by the NIT Institute for Tourism Research in Kiel from 2019, some 54% of all European winter holidays are taken in Austria.

Representatives from the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovenia, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Hungary and South Tyrol will take part in the meeting.

Reported in cooperation with the Austrian Press Agency / APA.