Graz, a holistic approach to promote tourism
Graz has seen one of the strongest bounce backs for tourism activities in 2022, among cities in Austria.
Graz is looking at the future with an optimistic view and will continue to have a holistic approach to tourism development, says Dieter Hardt-Stremayr, CEO Graz Tourismus & Stadtmarketing Gmbh in an exclusive interview with ITB News.
How was the tourism season 2022? Is domestic tourism more important than prior to the Covid pandemic?
2022 was a surprisingly positive year for Graz, with guest arrivals and overnights almost back to pre-pandemic levels. Last year, we recorded 1,138,652 overnight stays. it represented an increase of 62.5% compared to 2021 and was only 8.9% down compared to 2019. There is obviously a strong pent-up demand in city travel, because cities all over Europe were bouncing back strongly. We were able to maintain the interest of Austrian visitors. They accounted for around half of the overnight stays in 2022. If this will continue in 2023 is still very uncertain.
Which foreign markets performed best in 2022 for Graz? How does 2023 look like? Are they some emerging trends?
We saw some very positive results out of the Netherlands thanks to the launch of a direct flight from Amsterdam to Graz, but also from Poland. Finally we are very happy to see that the USA is also strongly back. The first quarter of 2023 looks quite promising. In the period January to March 2023, we recorded 63.1% more overnight stays than in the same period of 2022. Compared to 2019, this is a decrease of only 2.4%. We see that people travel, but it is still very difficult to make any predictions due to so many (outside) factors we cannot influence. So any prediction of what to expect of 2023 is not easy.
How important is tourism for the Graz economy?
Tourism itself is an important part of the overall economy, but tourism is also an important service industry for the economic destination, serving the manufacturing industry, the research and knowledge industry. These are the major sectors in terms of employment and economic capacity. The majority of the total workforce is found in services (78%), of which 3.1% are employed in tourism in Graz.
Graz has done a lot to uphold and expand its tourism reputation, but how has the destination remained less known than other cities in Austria?
It can take centuries to create a world-wide known brand like Vienna or Salzburg. This does not happen from one day to the other. Graz has been quite successful positioning itself as”Austria’s best kept secret“. The question is, do we want to be so well known, followed by a very strong visitor pressure? The answer is rather no, than yes. And there is a visible trend on the horizon, that second- or third-tier cities will get more attractive. This is where Graz will be running on the forefront!
Does Graz Tourism have new marketing themes for the coming season? Do you focus on certain groups or types of travellers?
Graz will stay true to where visitors find our authentic experiences, like culture, culinary experiences, the unique atmosphere and the vicinity of amazing excursions. All of this can be experienced in a sustainable way. Sustainability and regenerative experiences are and will be a strong focus in the years to come.
Does the city work out strategies to improve transport connections such as air or rail ?
Graz is very well connected through attractive hubs like Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam and Zurich. The city is definitely not aiming at bringing low cost/no frills airlines and the train network is constantly improved. With the soon to be finished train connection from Vienna to Italy we will see more potential for train journeys.
Are there any new tourism projects such as hotels, culture, events and festivals?
Graz is not necessarily aiming at creating experiences only for visitors, but we are looking at it in a more holistic way. Everything new should be beneficial for both, local residents and visitors, to create a sustainable visitor economy.
Our most recent new experiences are i.e. the Schlossberg Museum Graz, The Slide, The Flight (4D cinema experience), a river raft, the Radisson Hotel at the Main Train Station (opening 2024), more public transport with new tram routes being built or extended as well as more cycling.