Jakob Falkner, Managing Director of Bergbahnen Sölden, has given an ambiguous summary of the past winter season. The thanks of the Tyrolean population for keeping the lifts open is offset by a total economic failure. With a view towards Switzerland, the Ötztal cable car entrepreneur criticizes Austria's opening policy. According to Falkner, what the federal winter sports regions managed to do was neglected: to stabilize the economic situation in tourism and, at the same time, the health system through coordinated opening steps.
The Bergbahnen Sölden closed their winter operations on Sunday, April 11th. Within the framework of the applicable regulations, one of the largest ski areas in Tyrol has kept a substantial part of its slopes and facilities open in winter. Visitors experienced a world-class ski area in private mode - dream slopes and gondolas for themselves. However, without any opportunity to stop. Together with the absence of international guests, the result was a total economic failure. "The drop in sales for Bergbahnen Sölden is minus 99 percent," said Jakob Falkner. Also bitter for falconers: “The perfect snow conditions and the unusually favorable weather over the past few months would have met all the requirements for a dream winter. In a normal year it would have been a record season. "
Opening up to locals as the right decision
Despite the high commissioning costs, Falkner has no doubt that it was right to keep the ski area in Sölden open with the exception of a three-week break: “The degree of gratitude that the population showed us is moving. There was a huge amount of positive and emotional feedback from the population. This showed us that we could make a decisive contribution to making this difficult time more worth living. "
Switzerland as a positive example of an alternative path
Nevertheless, in addition to the economic burden, the stale aftertaste remains that the total failure could have been avoided. Falkner refers to the example of Switzerland. The Bergbahnen Sölden maintain close industry relationships there. You have had an international marketing cooperation with Jungfrau Railways for years. “Despite initial criticism, Switzerland showed that it was possible to complete a tourist winter season. Mountain railways and hotels were in operation. Restaurants and bars remained closed. In some places this generated 70 to 80% of regular sales. At the same time, the health system there has maintained stability. The pandemic situation in Switzerland in relation to Austria even improved in the course of the winter, ”reports Falkner.
Missed opportunity to enable more people to relax on the slopes
In Austria, due to the absence of international guests, it would not have been possible to generate sales on this scale. But one could have created an adequate offer for recreation and leisure activities. At least for Austrians, Swiss and those German guests who had used the original option of a 48-hour stay. With an overnight stay and, as originally planned, without any bar, let alone après-ski operation. “That would have helped the local tourism industry enormously. And above all, it would have been possible for many more guests from all over Germany to experience something normal in nature and on the mountain. Austria missed this opportunity, ”said Falkner. In Sölden in particular, the Ski World Cup in October showed that you are able to
Bergbahnen Sölden invest despite the crisis winter
Nevertheless, Falkner looks to the future with determination. Bergbahnen Sölden is making a major investment in the new construction of the restaurant at the Gaislachkogl middle station in the coming summer. In addition, numerous infrastructure measures and quality improvements are being implemented in the ski area. The investment volume is in the low double-digit million range. “We believe in the prospects of our offer. That is why we invest. It remains to be hoped that those responsible in the public sector will also do their homework. You now have to ensure that the vaccination campaign progresses quickly and that this crisis is overcome, ”emphasized Falkner.