The direct value-added effect of tourism to the Austrian economy in 2018 is calculated to be EUR 25 billion (excluding business trips), or 6.5% of GDP, according to the Austrian Tourism Satellite Account (TSA). Based on the TSA, some 244 000 full-time job equivalents were directly attributed to tourism related industries in 2017, contributing 6.4% of overall employment in Austria. Travel exports represented  30.9% of total service exports in 2018.

The number of international tourist arrivals in all accommodation establishments (commercial and private) was 30.8 million in 2018, which was up 4.6% over 2017, and the number of bednights amounted to 110.4 million (up 4.2%). The fastest growing source markets compared with 2017 were Germany (up 2.7 million bednights), the Netherlands (up 0.3 million) and Czech Republic (up 0.2 million). Declines were registered from Switzerland and Liechtenstein (down 89 000 bednights), Italy (down 35 000) and Turkey (down 21 000).

For 2018, there was a positive balance of payments from tourism of approximately EUR 9.3 billion, an increase of EUR 660 million when compared to 2017. Income from inbound tourism totalled EUR 19.5 billion, a rise of 7.4%, while spending by Austrian residents abroad also increased by 7.3% to EUR 10.1 billion.

Domestic tourist arrivals in paid accommodation totalled 14.0 million in 2018 (up 3.0%) with 39.4 million bednights registered (up 2.2%). Record highs were registered during both the winter and summer seasons with 5.9 million and 8.2 million arrivals respectively.

Under the Austrian Federal Constitution, the nine Länder (federal provinces) have legislative and executive responsibility for tourism affairs. As tourism is a cross cutting sector, Federal and European laws also apply.

At a national level, from January 2020 on tourism policy is the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism. In addition, there is a Parliamentary Committee for Tourism within the Austrian Parliament. Synergies between the national and regional levels continue to be strengthened via a Tourism Steering Group, which is chaired by the Ministry and brings together representatives of the regional tourism administrations.

Co-operation with other ministries, departments, institutions and the tourism industry is organised for specific topics either via permanent groups or for short term issues dealt with by round tables. This includes, for example, the Expert Council supporting the implementation of Plan T - Master Plan for Tourism, as well as sustainable mobility, visas and tourism ethics issues. Other issues are considered on a case-by-case basis - such as new funding schemes and legislation affecting tourism. These permanent groups and roundtables are also established to future proof policies, and enable a thorough horizon scanning process.

The Austrian National Tourist Office (ANTO) is the national tourism marketing organisation. It is funded by the Ministry (75%) and the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (25%), and co-operates closely with the Austrian tourism trade, including the tourist boards of the Länder and tourism businesses. The core responsibilities of Austrian National Tourist Office are market research, brand management, marketing, tourism networking and information provision.

In 2018, the national tourism administration’s budget was EUR 69.8 million. Of this total, EUR 39.6 million was administered by the Austrian Bank for Tourism Development, a specialist bank acting in a public-private partnership with the Ministry. This included EUR 23.9 million dedicated to financial support for SMEs. In addition, two special funding programmes for investments in tourism enterprises resulted in further spending of EUR 15.7 million, which explains the relatively sharp singular increase compared to previous years.

Almost EUR 24.4 million was directed to the annual budget of the Austrian National Tourist Office and a further EUR 5.8 million was disbursed by the Ministry in the form of individual subsidies for co-financing tourism projects and service contracts. Also, EUR 50 million from European Recovery Programme funds were made available for loans to tourism SMEs. In addition to the national budget, all nine Länder have their own tourism budgets to support their specific tourism development programmes.

In 2019, the Ministry published a new national tourism strategy, the Plan T – Master Plan for Tourism, which was reemphasised by the government programme of January 2020. It lays down guidelines for the sustainable development of tourism and serves as a guide for political decisions. Sustainability in all its dimensions and a culture of co-operation are central considerations to achieve a new quality of tourism policy (Box 3.6). The Plan is supplemented by an annual action plan, which contains concrete implementation measures and facilitates a rapid response to changes in a dynamic environment. Implementation involves widespread participation of public and private actors overseen by an Expert Council together with steering groups of the Länder. This is underpinned by annual Tourism Days, which are industry events organised by the Ministry, the Federal Economic Chamber and the Austrian National Tourist Office.

Key aspects of the Plan include:

  • Designing tourism in a way that allows for the harmonious co-existence of both tourists and the local population, such as surveys to fully understand impacts at the local level.

  • Improving the dialogue and initiating stronger co-operation with Länder, destinations, businesses, interest groups and stakeholders from other sectors.

  • Supporting digital transformation, such as by supporting tourism businesses to adapt, creating data alliances and expanding e-government services (Box).

  • Creating appropriate framework conditions for the tourism sector, including in the fields of taxation, business succession and new business models.

  • Optimising the quality of training and better exploiting the potential for inter-business measures to improve the attractiveness of working in tourism by for example developing employee benefit schemes or better accommodation facilities.

  • Working towards greater levels of sustainability, including by improving climate-friendly mobility and promoting further use of renewable energy by businesses and regions.

  • Intensifying co-operation between tourism and agriculture, including in the culinary sector.

  • Further developing tourism marketing, such as by rethinking destination management and optimising the use of new technologies.

  • Strengthening family-run and owner-managed enterprises by providing tailor-made financing and subsidy mechanisms as well as developing new financing mechanisms with a focus on equity.

  • Creating a future-oriented system of statistical indicators covering all three dimensions of sustainability.

More and more visitors consider sustainability, climate change and the active promotion of environmentally compatible tourism to be matters of great importance. Therefore, a number of activities have been implemented by the Federal Ministry. One specific measure is the use of the Climate and Energy Fund by the regions, in co-operation with the Ministry, to support communities to implement projects in the field of renewable energy, reduction of energy consumption and sustainable mobility. Since 2009, a number of “climate and energy model regions” have been established in Austria. In 2019, for the first time, a specific call was launched for tourism with a budget of EUR 1 million supporting the establishment of a showcase region for climate-friendly tourism within the next three years.

Beyond this, there are ongoing efforts to improve the regulatory framework and to reduce the administrative burden on tourism enterprises. For example, one measure taken in 2018 was to reduce VAT on overnight stays from 13% to 10%. Another measure foreseen in Plan T is the creation of a modern regulatory and organisational framework relating to the sharing economy.

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