Austria Winter Season 2022/23: Overnight Stays Are Only 4 ½% Below The Pre-Corona Level

After a weak March due to special effects, there are signs of a strong increase in overnight stays in April. Based on current payment card transactions, the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB) expects that overnight stays in the last month of the winter season have even exceeded the high pre-crisis level of 2019. This means that overnight stays in the entire 2022/23 winter season are only 4 ½% below the pre-corona level - the Austrian tourism industry has successfully continued its recovery. The outlook for the 2023 summer season is cautiously optimistic. On the one hand, the current high level of inflation could dampen demand from households with lower incomes and the lack of staff could limit expansions in supply. On the other hand, the end of COVID restrictions,

According to Statistics Austria, 12.9 million overnight stays were made in Austrian accommodation establishments in March 2023. Compared to March 2019, this means a sharp decrease of 13.7%. In contrast, the number of overnight stays in January (–0.8%) and February (–2.3%) was only slightly below the pre-crisis level. The sharp drop in March can be explained by the termination of the holidays in Bavaria and Belgium, which explains a large part of the drop in overnight stays by foreign guests. March therefore does not represent a trend reversal, but was determined by special factors. This assessment confirms the forecast for overnight stays for April, which was prepared by the OeNB on the basis of payment card transactions (up to and including April 23, 2023). Accordingly, the number of overnight stays by domestic guests in April increased by 9, 2% (compared to April 2019). The OeNB also expects overnight stays by foreign guests to increase (+2.1% compared to April 2019). In total, this results in an increase of 4.2%. The expected strong performance is partly due to the Easter holidays being two weeks earlier. Since the snow conditions were still excellent in April, more ski holidays than in 2019 are likely to have been booked.

The 2022/23 winter season also ended in April. According to OeNB estimates, the number of overnight stays in the six months since November 2022 is likely to be 4.4% below the 2018/19 winter season. The Austrian tourism industry is thus continuing its recovery after the corona pandemic. While the 2020/21 winter season saw a decline of 92.4% due to the complete absence of foreign guests, the 2021/22 winter season was only restricted by official closures at the end of 2021 and was 27.7% below the pre-crisis level. Even if this winter season was not affected by any closures, the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis are still being felt.

When assessing the outlook for the 2023 summer season, there are several factors to consider. (1) The high inflation: It dampens the real available income and thus generally the affordability of a holiday in Austria. In addition, the price increases in the catering trade were above average and reduce price competitiveness. However, the good booking situation still points to high demand and is helping to push through higher prices. By focusing on quality and on higher price segments, possible falls in demand in lower price segments could also be compensated for. On the other hand, another aspect related to the price development has a supportive effect. The currently strong price increase for air travel increases the attractiveness of Austria for guests from neighboring countries.

Tourism job vacancies in March 2023 were 44% above pre-crisis levels. In addition, employment growth in the hospitality and accommodation sector has cooled off in recent months. The lower employment dynamics and the continued high level of vacancies indicate possible supply bottlenecks in the 2023 summer season. (3) Congress and city tourism: Since the second half of 2022, an increasing number of large congresses have been held in Austria again. This trend will continue and provide additional impetus for domestic tourism. Overall, the outlook for the 2023 summer season is cautiously optimistic.

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