EDTORIAL: Overtourism in Upper Austria

Hallstatt’s Chinese twin brings both challenges and rewards to regional Austria

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

Dear readers,

Last week, your humble author had the opportunity to do an interview for ZDF (Second German Television) in Hallstatt, Austria. This idyllic little town in Austria’s Salzkammergut region is not only home to the oldest salt mine in the world with 7,000 years of history, but also gave the name to the Hallstatt period, the predominant Western and Central European culture of Early Iron Age Europe (8th to 5th century BC). It also swarms with Chinese tourists all year round. The reason for this is not only the fact that Hallstatt in Austria is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but because there is a second Hallstatt in existence – in China. A Chinese company build a 1:1 copy of much of the Austrian city in 2012 in a place in the Pearl River Delta, not far from Hong Kong, hoping to sell apartments there for rich Chinese looking for a holiday flat.

The two Hallstatts entered a twin city partnership and the Chinese visitors spend a lot of money in the city, where prices in souvenir shops, cafés and restaurants are about double the normal level seen in Austria. However, there can be too much of a good thing. Locals are getting increasingly annoyed with the numbers of tourists; big signs in Chinese and English have been put up forbidding the use of drones to take photos of the private life of the citizens and reminding visitors that this is not a museum, but a living city with inhabitants that should be shown respect. Voices are to be kept to a reasonable volume between midday and 2pm, as well as between 10pm and 7am, while much attention is also drawn to the impressive number of – pricey – public toilets in the town, which should be used instead of the flower beds in front of the houses.

Handwritten signs in restaurants informing customers that they are not allowed to change seats after sitting down and that several persons are not allowed to share one dish are telltale signs of the tribulations waiters encounter when dealing with lively Chinese package tourists.

It comes as no surprise then, that the ZDF chose Hallstatt as an example for a destination suffering from Overtourism. As according to COTRI forecasts, half of the additional 500 million international travels in the coming decade will start in China, many new places will have to be developed to dispense these visitors coming on top of the existing 1.32 billion international travels in 2017. Hallstatt is at least serving to ease the congestion in the main Austrian destinations like Vienna, Innsbruck and nearby Salzburg.

If you understand German, you may want to watch the programme. It will be broadcasted on Pentecost Monday, May 21st at 7:30pm and will also be available in the ZDF “Mediathek” afterwards (ZDF.de).

Around the Pentecost weekend, big events are on the horizon: Next week in Shanghai the second edition of the ITB China is fully booked, even though the fair increased its exhibition area by 50 percent compared to last year. More than 700 exhibitors from 80 countries will be represented, including COTRI at booth 263. On May 17th, the second day of the three-day event, COTRI will host the CTW Awards 2018 in partnership with Ctrip.

The other event to look forward to is the CVS Chinese Visitors Summit in Düsseldorf, which will take place a few days after ITB China (May 22nd -24th). The COTRI team hopes to meet many of our readers either in China or in Germany!

Best wishes for the week

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the COTRI team

The most reliable dataset for 80 key China outbound tourism destinations

 

DOWNLOAD BROCHURE