The corona pandemic was clearly noticeable throughout tourism last and this summer. With 20 years of experience in the further development of the alpine mountain summer, however, the best Austrian summer mountain railways have used this as an opportunity to convince new target groups of the diversity of the mountains. The figures prove: the strategy of the member companies is working.
Offer design as a decisive success factor
Due to the measures to contain the pandemic, the operating days in the 2020 season fell by 11 percent compared to the previous year. While the losses in the industry leveled off at 20 to 24 percent, those of the best Austrian summer mountain railways fell by 14 percent. This brings the 73 member companies to a total of around 78 million euros in sales.
“In times of the Corona, holiday guests were primarily looking for security - both in terms of correct compliance with the security measures and the design of the offer. From experience and past expert studies, we know that alpine regions are particularly impressive in summer with their varied offers. We have stood for this experience guarantee with the quality promise of the seal of approval for 20 years, ”explains Kornel Grundner, spokesman for the best Austrian summer mountain railways.
Despite some fluctuations, the number of guests remained stable during the pandemic
A quick survey among the experts of the Best Austrian Summer Mountain Railways shows that the 2021 season started very differently in some cases: Individual mountain railway operators report a very positive start to the season in May. The holiday guests' newly won freedom to travel and their desire to travel were clearly noticeable. So far, however, there have only been a few high-frequency days. Other mountain railway operators report a drop in turnover or guest numbers of up to minus 30 percent compared to the previous year.
“The biggest challenge in July was the mixed weather conditions. Although some holidaymakers are looking for relaxation by the sea again this season, overall the number of guests is in a satisfactory range despite a few outliers given the location, ”said Grundner.
Mountains and sea are not mutually exclusive
One of the biggest changes during the corona pandemic is in the area of the guest classes: The absence of international guests is clearly noticeable. Among the visitors, however, there are significantly more younger guests, families and “newcomers to the mountains” who would otherwise have spent their summer vacation by the sea. However, this development will be difficult to sustain: because those people for whom the top priority in summer is a beach holiday will continue to go to the sea in summer if this is possible.
Nevertheless, something sticks here: The best Austrian summer mountain railways have made good use of the opportunities in the Corona summers to inspire new holidaymakers for a summer holiday in the mountains. The mountain railway operators predict that these holidaymakers will be happy to come back as day guests or for a weekend. A summer vacation in the mountains or by the sea is not mutually exclusive - they complement each other very well. The prerequisite for this, however, is what is on offer on the mountain: “The guests want to experience something. The offer has to be able to keep up and, like the member companies of the Best Austrian Summer Mountain Railways, be continuously developed, ”said Grundner.
Corona drives innovation
When asked which developments from the corona pandemic will persist, the mountain railways say in unison: people will quickly return to familiar, old behavior as soon as the safety measures are relaxed. Nonetheless, the mountain railway operators believe that long-term effects will remain recognizable in some areas. These include: short-term bookings, the trend towards individual travel, online ticketing, and the desire for flexible cancellation conditions.
“Even if the planning uncertainties remain due to the close connection between tourism and the current pandemic, we are optimistic: With a good vaccination rate and good weather, it is quite realistic that September and October will be strong months with similar numbers of guests as in the previous year . The current booking situation until the end of September is very good, ”concludes Grundner. "We are looking forward to a golden autumn and expect that many more guests will enjoy the holiday experience right on their doorstep."
About the seal of approval "Best Austrian Summer Mountain Railways"
The seal of approval Best Austrian Summer Mountain Railways is an initiative of the professional association of cable cars (Austrian Chamber of Commerce). The seal of approval unites the experts and pioneers of local summer mountain tourism and now has 73 members with 87 themed mountains. The seal of approval is an important decision criterion for choosing a destination, especially for summer holidaymakers who are not experienced in the mountains. Only companies that meet at least 160 quality criteria become members of the Best Austrian Summer Mountain Railways. Specialized in five themed worlds - adventure, family, panorama & nature experience, enjoyment, art & culture - the members have to pass a recertification every three years. These high requirements have a positive impact on market success: The best Austrian summer mountain railways record an annual growth in guests and turnover. In 2020, the first entrants were 7.8 million and the total turnover of the member companies was 78 million EUR. (Source: Trendmonitor Manova, as of August 2021)