Summer holidays in Austria?

What to consider after today's news from the Austrian government

Hut in Dachstein Schladming Region in Austria

Today the Austrian government announced that hotels will re-open on the 29th of May 2020 in Austria. Given that many of us are already considering a summer holiday in Austria, there are still a lot of things to be worked out. The press conference today brought some much needed clarity to a lot of questions, but there are still some unknown factors.

1. Regulations

The tourism minister announced that there will be a clear set of rules, that the hotels will have to follow. One of them will definitely be the distancing rules. Right now the government set the following distancing guidelines:

  • At least 1 meter distance between people, who don’t live together.
  • The exception is the gastronomy: If you want to meet friends or family at a restaurant you can be a maximum of 4 people (plus kids) sitting on one table together.
  • A maximum of 10 people can gather in public spaces.
  • Buffets will have to change from self-service to pre-plated dishes or similar solutions.
  • Bars will not be allowed to open, guests have to be seated to order drinks.
  • In indoor environments people will be obligated to wear face masks.
  • Each guest needs to have at least 10 m2 space indoors.
Wörthersee AustriaWill all the hotels at lake Wörthersee be open this summer?

2. Occupancy planning

These rules give a guideline for hotels to work out their occupancy plans. How many people will be allowed inside the hotels, so that they can make sure the distancing rules are obeyed?  Now hotel owners can work out plans how to structure their restaurants and wellness areas.

But they will also have to consider a completely changed guest composition. The summer season in Austria is usually not dominated by Austrian guests (only 29% of nights spent come from within Austria). The biggest guest group in Austria usually comes from Germany (37% of nights spent). That’s why Austria is trying so hard to negotiate a bilateral deal with Germany to open the borders for the summer season.

BregenzerwaldHiking – here in Vorarlberg’s Bregenzerwald – might be the safest option for a summer holiday in Austria…

3. Financial considerations

Now here is where things get tricky. Hotel owners still don’t know how many guests will really come. After a short research among my Instagram followers the biggest group (37%) are still not sure about their summer holiday plans. Most are considering to wait and see how things develop. According to a study conducted by TQS research only a third of Austrians are even planning to go on summer holiday – and thereof just 50% are planning to travel within Austria.

Now this brings the risk, that hotels are waiting for guest bookings to decide if it will be even profitable to open their doors. And at the same time guests are waiting for the regulations to become clearer or for any updates on the health situation and risks that come with traveling. This might bring the whole tourism industry to an impasse, as it’s hard to plan anything for this summer season given the current waiting position.

Villa Antoinette SemmeringSmaller boutique hotels & private rentals like the Villa Antoinette might be the beneficiaries from this situation.
They don’t have space for more than 10 guests!

4. Closed hotels?

All in all this could lead to hotels not even opening their doors. If the costs to open are higher than the expected revenue, then business owners will have to cut their losses. It’s a vicious cycle and I believe it can only be overcome by the tourism industry with a set of measures and a bit of risk-taking:

  • Start concentrated marketing efforts within Austria.
  • Offer great deals for summer holidays under these special circumstances.
  • Partner up with local businesses to find synergies (guests might want to spend less time within the hotels, but venture out more to avoid wearing face masks and also limit the risk of getting infected).
Lake Piburger See Oetztal TyrolPlaces like lake Piburgersee would be perfect for a summer holiday in Austria!

5. And us as guests?

What can we as holiday seekers do? The answer isn’t easy. I personally will start my research on potential summer holidays within Austria now (and not wait any longer). I don’t want to run into the risk of not finding anything suitable 🙂 But the hotels will have to be quick with offering answers to my questions. The questions I have in my mind are:

  • Cancellation policies: Hotels, that offer flexible cancellations will win.
  • Tailored services: I will look for hotels that offer clever services – like the option to have breakfast in the room.
  • Space considerations: I will also research for hotels, that have larger rooms with enough space to relax in the sun or maybe even private pools (okay, I know that’s a first world problem) 😉
  • Size of the hotel: Maybe boutique hotels with less than 10 rooms are the winners in this situation!?
  • Experiences & attractions: I will want to know what’s there to see and do outside of the hotel. Will everything open? Can I take the gondola up to the mountain top? Will the boat rental service open?
Room view from Ritzlerhof SautensHotels like the Ritzlerhof in Tyrol could be a perfect option – ample outdoor relaxation & spacious rooms.

What are your summer holiday plans and questions?
What would you expect from hotels to offer to make you feel safe enough to book something?

Here are some of our favourite regions within Austria to consider for your summer holidays:

Where to spend your (relaxed) Austria summer holidays?