From the internal minutes of the meeting – available to the APA – it can be seen that, according to AGES, “a striking number of clusters and here large-scale clusters” were identified in the apres-ski area. This also includes people residing in Vienna who were identified as cases in the federal state of residence following skiing activities in other federal states.
According to the cluster analysis, the infections mostly did not happen in the course of transport (i.e. the gondola) or exercise (skiing), but directly in the apres-ski setting. The restriction is that the traceability of infections, for example in the course of gondola rides, is very limited. The fact that there is a problem in this area is not denied even in federal states with ski tourism. The representative from Vorarlberg noted that the primary problem was in the area of metallurgy and apres-ski.
Hoping for falling numbers in the January tourism hole
It is hoped that the number of cases will also decrease accordingly due to the sharp drop in tourism in January. According to information from AGES, numerous clusters throughout Austria originate in Salzburg and/or Tyrol. The local authorities don’t want to be to blame. The traffic light representative from Tyrol replied that tourists sometimes left immediately after a positive test in order to avoid quarantine.
Season “still hanging by a thread”
All in all, “winter tourism is still hanging by a thread”, according to Robert Seeber, head of the Chamber of Commerce. What many companies feared happened on Friday: Germany put Austria on the list of high-risk areas.
As the German Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced, Austria will be considered a high-risk area from Sunday. This means that entry registration and quarantine for non-immunized people are required. The municipalities of Mittelberg (Vorarlberg) and Jungholz (Tyrol) as well as the Riss Valley in the municipal area of Vomp and Eben am Achensee (Tyrol) are exempt from the measure.
Omicron Wave: Cancellations in Winter Tourism
Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger (ÖVP) pointed out that the restriction imposed by the reclassification does not affect vaccinated people: “Anyone who has been vaccinated can spend a safe and relaxing vacation in Austria at any time.” However, people who are neither vaccinated nor recovered must have one ten-day quarantine, from which testing may be released after five days at the earliest. The isolation obligation also applies to children, with small children under six years of age automatically ending the quarantine after five days even without a free test.
Köstinger worried about the quarantine requirement for children
Köstinger expressed concern for winter tourism because of the mandatory quarantine requirement for unvaccinated children under the age of twelve when returning to Germany: “Even if families with children under the age of twelve make up only around a fifth of our foreign guests, this regulation is problematic for Austria because all children who are not yet fully immunized must go into quarantine for at least five days, even if their parents are fully immunized.”
The ÖVP minister therefore wants to “continue to work to ensure that the recommendations of the European Union are implemented” – namely that Germany exempts children under the age of twelve who are traveling under adult supervision from the obligation to provide proof.
Austria had already been on the German list of high-risk countries from November 14 to Christmas Day (December 25). The only exceptions to this were the communities of Mittelberg and Jungholz and the Riss Valley, which are only accessible from Germany. Most recently, all of Germany’s neighboring countries except Austria were on the list of high-risk areas.
Platter “not surprised”
Tyrol’s governor Günther Platter (ÖVP), meanwhile, said on APA request that the German rating as a high-risk area came “not surprisingly due to the infection situation and is now affecting numerous European countries”: “Omicron has long since arrived in Europe, and the rating as a high-risk area does not matter either to change.”
However, “nothing stands in the way” of a safe holiday for vaccinated people in Tyrol, according to the governor. This regulation coincides with the Austrian 2-G rule in accommodation establishments. At the same time, Platter urged Germany to “rapidly” participate in a solution for children.
Good Christmas business, hole in January
Germany’s decision is a heavy blow for the industry. The tourism industry’s Christmas business was good, but there was a gap in January and the hitherto good bookings during the semester break are still shaky.
At Christmas, the local hotels were 70 to 90 percent occupied, “that’s very good,” said WKO division chairman Seeber. The booking is still good for the semester break in February, whether it will stay that way or whether there will be a wave of cancellations will be seen in the next two weeks, said Seeber on Thursday evening before the classification of Austria as a high-risk area became known.
The pandemic is severely dampening business, although “people are hungry to go on vacation,” according to a survey at the end of December. “In January we only have 20 to 25 percent utilization because a peak in omicron distribution is expected in two weeks,” says Seeber. This is reinforced “by the cancellation waves and the unfortunate curfews”. Winter tourism is about 10 billion euros in added value.
After all, Seeber is optimistic about the summer, which also went very well for the industry in 2021: “I’m convinced that we can have a great summer again, we just have to get the vaccination rate right,” says Seeber. Under no circumstances should it be locked again, “our industry can no longer afford that”.