Austria has turned into one of the leading tourism destinations worldwide. Although small in size and population, it is among the 15 most visited countries in the world. In fact, with some of Europe’s finest skiing, winter is almost as busy as summer in the country’s spectacular mountain regions. Visitors are drawn as much for the scenic beauty of this Alpine republic’s provinces as they are for splendid cities like Vienna, the historic capital, and beautiful Salzburg, birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Vienna attracts a major part of tourists, both in summer and winter. Salzburg receives about a fifth of tourist overnight stays compared to Vienna, which ranks it 2nd in the summer season. In the winter season, a number of winter sport resorts in western Austria overtake Salzburg in the number of tourist overnight stays.
Tourism is important to Austria’s economy, contributing 7.3% (in 2019) to its GDP. According to the Austrian Tourism Satellite Accounts, domestic and foreign guests spent around 38.1 billion euros in 2019. The added value of tourism (direct and indirect) accounts for more than 29.1 billion euros. Tourism contributes positively to the Austrian balance of payments.
The reasons for the positive development of the Austrian Tourism are diverse: the majestic Alps, the Danube, beautiful rivers and lakes with drinking water quality, lovely cities, Austria’s immemorial history and its richness of culture, the central location in the heart of Europe as well as its culinary art. Hospitality and service quality in small family businesses with strong regional and traditional bonds add to a unique and authentic tourism experience.
Austria welcomed more than 46 million guests in 2019 (with around 32 million international tourists), who spent around 152.7 million overnights in the country. The three most important source markets Germany, Austria/domestic and the Netherlands generated around 70 % of all overnights.
In the calendar year 2020 97.91 million nights spent were registered, according to preliminary results from Statistics Austria. This corresponds to a 54.75 million or 35.9% decrease compared to the previous year. The number of arrivals fell by 45.8% to 25.04 million (non-resident guests: -52.7%; resident guests: -30.5%).
Austria has two main seasons – summer (May – October) and winter (November – April) – with peaks in August and February. Over the past years, winter season has gained importance. Today the number of overnights in summer (79 million) and winter (73 million) have nearly balanced out. Due to the trend of shorter summer holidays, the summer season records a higher number of arrivals.
However, in terms of receipts, winter has exceeded summer season. Central goals of the Austrian tourism development are spreading the seasons and becoming a year-round destination. The focus on culture and culinary art, MICE as well as health tourism supports this objective.
According to guest surveys, the three main reasons for choosing Austria as holiday destination in the summertime are the mountains, landscape/nature as well as the wide offer of hiking trails, and in the wintertime are the attractiveness of ski areas, winter sports offer and hotels/accommodations. Guests are searching for recreation, exercise, nature and culture, spending their holidays mostly as a couple (35 %) or family with kids between 6 and 13 years (14 %).