INTERVIEW – Norbert Kettner, Vienna Tourist Board’s Director: “we will promote Vienna in a way nobody did before…”

Vienna tourism industry experienced a challenging year 2020 as international markets disappeared overnight. Total arrivals dropped by 74.7% to two million while overnights declined by 73.9% to 4.59 million compared to 2019. With vaccination campaigns strengthening around the world, Vienna feels ready to welcome back travellers as stated by Norbert Kettner.

With vaccination campaigns speeding up, how do you evaluate Vienna’s tourism market potential for the coming months? Which markets could recover most quickly?

I think that we are in a good position to enjoy the first positive signs of recovery. The issue that Vienna faces is that we are more dependent than other European metropolises on international travellers, as our domestic market is rather limited.

We are very hopeful about the return of Europeans but also of Americans, especially as the European Commission considers opening Europe to vaccinated Americans. The US market is very important to us, as prior to the pandemic it was the 3rd largest incoming market source after the domestic market and Germany. We can also expect recovery from other markets where vaccination already is showing its first effects, such as the UK, Israel, Denmark or the Middle East. However, we need rapidly to see the return of intercontinental flights from the Middle East or North America.

I am more careful about the quick return of Asian travellers, particularly from China. We get mixed signals from those markets. Asians are very keen to come back but at the same time they do not feel that it is the right time yet…

Vienna’s distinctive monuments along the Ring boulevard are a major tourism asset for the promotion of the Austrian capital (Photo: LC/Cleverdis)

How will Vienna present itself for the rest of the year? Did Covid change the way Vienna tourism will introduce itself to foreign travellers?

We made the decision last year during the crisis to never stop communicating with our 17 major source markets. Our communication is based on a “fleximodal” campaign where we focus on the image to generate feelings for Vienna. We are testing this campaign in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. We will then roll it out in other EU markets and the UK. Ultimately, we have the ambition to promote Vienna in a way nobody did before. As many destinations will launch similar campaigns, we want to strike the difference.

Will additional funds be available to promote Vienna?

The city and institutions never stopped their financial support of the Vienna Tourist Board as it is an integral part of Vienna’s appeal worldwide. Large infrastructure projects continued despite the crisis such as a new arena for 20,000 people, the new international bus terminal or a new market hall. We also launched, with the Convention Bureau, a special €4m fund to attract corporate meetings. This is a first for Vienna!

In the longer term, do you see new markets – geographical or social – or new themes emerging ?

We foresse a come back of Brazilian travellers and we see an interesting potential from Mexico and Southeast Asia. Regarding themes, I would like to highlight that we adapt to travellers’ desires or wishes rather than imposing our own themes. Of course, they are international well-know figures which we will continue to celebrate, such as the anniversary of the birth of Johann Strauss II this year. I believe that people come to Vienna to enjoy our quality of life and art of living. Of course, there are many clichés about Vienna. They are important right now, as they trigger tourists’ attention, but they are a window to more discoveries.

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