Vienna City Hall, where the Austrian & Central European Travel Business opening night gala was held // © 2011 Dean Blaine
More than 300 exhibitors gathered in Vienna recently for the annual Austrian & Central European Travel Business (ACTB) conference. For two days and two nights, the Austrian capital played host to tour operators and media representing nearly 50 countries.
Established in 1976 as a business-to-business forum for promoting Austrian tourism, ACTB expanded in 2007 to include neighboring countries Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Danube Tourist Commission.
All the member countries reported robust tourism numbers for 2011. Austria boasted nearly 125 million overnight stays last year — its best year ever. After four years of downturn, Hungary finally saw tourism numbers increase in 2011. Slovenia reported a 9 percent increase in tourists year over year (a new record), and Slovakia enjoyed an 11 percent jump.
“Even in a time of crisis, people still want to go on holiday,” said Petra Stolba, CEO of the Austrian National Tourist Office. “Tourism is one of the basic needs.”
Projections for 2012 are more conservative, however, with the region hoping to simply maintain the record-breaking numbers they saw in 2011.
“The future is unpredictable more than ever,” Stolba added, “but we remain optimistic.”
The ACTB opening night gala at the glorious, neo-gothic Vienna City Hall, saw the launch of the Austrian National Tourist Office’s latest tourism campaign. “Arrive and Revive” is the soothing slogan for 2012. The rest of the evening was anything but staid, however, with lively performances ranging from traditional waltz and yodeling, to new age rock and a human beat box.
With “Arrive and Revive,” Austria is looking to capitalize on its strengths.
“People want to slow down when they go on holidays these days,” Stolba said.
Austria’s Salzkammergut region is promoting a trail they call the “Road of the Master Craftsmen,” promising visits with makers of traditional items like dirndl outfits, haferl shoes, gingerbread and lederhosen, along the route. The southern state of Styria is gearing up to host the Alpine Ski World Championships in February 2013. Salzburgerland has developed a program of 154 certified authentic accommodation huts accessible only by trail, each part of a traditional working farm, and classified into four different themes: pram huts, children’s huts, mountain bike huts and arts and culture huts. The state of Lower Austria boasts the new Wachau World Heritage Trail. Opened in June 2010, the 111-mile trail follows the Danube River past cultural and historical sites, gourmet restaurants and wineries through the region that National Geographic Traveler magazine dubbed the “Best Historic Destination in the World.”
For Vienna, this year is all about Gustav Klimt. The artist would have been 150 years old this year, and the city is pulling out all the stops. Ten different Klimt exhibitions are planned throughout the city. Next year, Vienna’s motto is “The Art of Enjoyment,” and 2013 promises three major openings: the new concert hall of the Vienna Boys Choir, the renovated 23-room Chamber of Art in the Kunsthistorisches Museum (closed since 2002) and the newly refurbished Stadtpalais Liechtenstein, which will exhibit art of the Biedermeier and neoclassical periods.
ACTB will change the format of the conference in 2013. Beginning next year, the newly branded ATB_Experience will bring together business leaders, product developers and media for a hands-on Austrian experience, visiting one province together as a group and, then, splitting up to explore one of Austria’s nine other provinces. Every other year beginning in 2014, Vienna will host a conference focusing on sales of Austrian tourism products only.