The regional capital of Upper Austria, Linz, on the Danube River, is putting human experiences at the heart of its newest promotion, with the slogan “Linz changes”.

Among the largest cities of Austria, Linz is probably that which is the least known by international travellers. There are historical reasons for this. Linz, Austria’s third largest city with over 200,000 inhabitants, has long been known as an industrial outpost. For most Austrians, Linz has for too long been associated with the steel industry and… a famed pastry, the Linzer Torte – a delicacy of raspberries sprinkled with cinnamon and almonds.

But Linz’s not-so-well-defined image is also considered a plus by city authorities. “What could be a weakness is actually an asset for us,” says Manfred Grubauer, chairman of Linz Tourismus, adding, “We surprise our visitors with our mix of traditional and contemporary architectures, and our creative young spirit which today makes our town one of the most attractive for students and artists. Most visitors are surprised to find a skyline dominated by parks and hills instead of the silhouette of factories.”

Tourism authorities are taking a pro-active role in promotion. Linz is all about the experience for the traveller, the idea that when visitors will leave Linz, they will retain a lasting memory “made of simple moments such as a meal or an encounter with locals,” explains Mr Grubauer. “The fact that our city is still aside larger tourism spots such as Salzburg, Vienna or Innsbruck gives a truly authentic experience to visitors.”

Locals are even implemented in that strategy as they are considered as “Linz ambassadors”. The slogan “Linz verändert” (“Linz changes”) thus focuses on the encounter between travellers and the inhabitants.

It is what Linz tourism authorities describe as “Being Human”, a sort of well-being feeling. “The basic definition of a real tourist is to show a natural curiosity to experience, to learn, to discover. And I think that Linz is perfectly set to fulfil post-Covid travellers’ wishes,” says Mr Grubauer.

“In connection with our ‘Linz changes’ slogan, the traveller can take time, be human and feel good, but also – and this is crucial – enhance his own personality,” he adds. Tours are now being organised to allow visitors to come into touch with local artists or the creative scene… to visit young designers or learn from young chefs about Linz culinary specialties. According to the Linz Tourism Chairman, such a strategy will help boost the length of stay in the town.

Culture and art tourism take the lead

As an economic powerhouse, Linz relied for a long time on business travel. According to data from Linz city, business travel’s market share was previously around 90% to 95% of all overnights. The Covid crisis has been taken as an opportunity to refocus on leisure and culture, with a target to have leisure tourism reaching 30% of all overnights.

Austria's third biggest city - Linz - and the Höhenrausch
Höhenrausch, Linz, Austria (photo – Frederic Koberl / Unsplash)

Over the past 15 years, Linz has changed dramatically, offering a wealth of new attractions and activities for travellers. Two world class museums located in contemporary buildings along the Danube have helped in promoting Linz as a centre for the arts. The Lentos Art Museum has one of the best collections of modern art in Austria while the Ars Electronica Center takes travellers into a future made of digital technologies.

More unusual are the Voestalpine Stahlwelt (steel world), located in the former steel production site and the Höhenrausch, a spectacular attraction combining art exhibitions with a walk over Linz roofs. A dozen museums, a dozen theatres and concert halls as well as countess festivals justify Linz’s title as a UNESCO city of media arts… and the discovery of Austria’s best-kept urban secret!

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