Dubai: Outbound tourism from the GCC countries to Austria has seen a 165 per cent growth over the last five years, Klaus Ehrenbrandtner, director of the Austrian National Tourist Office in Dubai, told Gulf News on the occasion of the Arabian Travel Market 2009 fair.
In 2008, Austria had 365,600 overnight stays of GCC guests and 102,100 arrivals, which accounts for an 11.8 per cent increase compared to 2007, Ehrenbrandtner says. The Austrian National Tourist Office in Dubai is the marketing agency for Austria as a tourist destination and is servicing Austrian partners.
Nevertheless, Ehrenbrandter admits that the economic downturn has "a certain effect" on the entire travelling industry with bookings declining regardless of the destination. For GCC residents visiting Austria, however, he expects the number of arrivals and overnight stays to hold steady this year compared to 2008.
"I am confident that we can maintain last year's result," he says, pointing out that his agency has experienced a promising start in the first month of 2009.
The Austrian Tourist Office is cooperating with the national carrier Austrian Airlines in several new advertising campaigns, for example exhibition booths in Dubai's Shopping Malls and spots on popular radio stations. To promote Austria's capital Vienna, which recently was awarded the city with the world's best quality of living in the respective annual ranking by Mercer Consulting, the tourism agency has set up a partnership with Emirates Holidays.
Special events in the UAE like the recent Red Bull Air Race in Abu Dhabi, hosted by the Austrian energy drink brand Red Bull, are creating additional awareness for Austria as a holiday destination. The country is also known for many Arab nationals seeking medical treatment in Austria's renowned clinics.
GCC residents and Arab nationals in particular are perceived as high net worth tourists by the hospitality industry. "Basically, tourists from GCC countries are richer and more generous than others", says Ehrenbrandter, and are spending the most of all travellers coming to Austria. According to him, GCC travellers are spending about 200 per cent more than the average tourist in Austria, namely some 200 euros per night and person, definitely more than other "high net worth travellers" from Germany or the US. "Arab tourist are big spenders", says Ehrenbrandtner. The most frugal guests in Austria are from China, with an average spending of 20 euros per night and person.
Vienna and Dubai are linked by a daily Emirates flight using a large Boeing 777-300. "The destination of Vienna has exceeded our expectations", says Salem Obaidullah, Senior Vice President Commercial Operations Europe and Russian Federation at Emirates. "In the medium-term, a second daily flight could be on the cards." Since the maiden flight on May 1, 2004, more than 700,000 passengers have been travelling on this particular Emirates connection.
Emirates' competitor on the Dubai-Vienna route, Austrian Airlines, is also experiencing growing demand.
From March 2009, the seat capacity on the daily flights between the two cities has been increased by 20 per cent by deploying a larger Boeing 767 instead of the smaller medium-haul aircraft used earlier on the five-hour flight, and for the summer season the ticket fares have been significantly reduced, says Austrian Airlines spokeswoman Livia Dandrea.
The cash-stricken Austrian national carrier, which was forced to cut several long-haul destinations last year and is currently stuck in a takeover process by German Lufthansa, has announced to concentrate on profitable routes, among them destinations in the Middle East.