|Behind Vienna’s elegant Old World facade is a bustling, modern city.|
The mention of a vacation across the pond may not instantly conjure up the streets of Vienna in the mind of an American traveler, but with a classic imperial European history, world-class skiing and culinary/winery scene to impress even the most discerning gourmands, there is no reason the city should not be rubbing elbows with the likes of Paris, London and Rome.
Travel Agent was in Vienna for a four-day adventure last November, kicking off our stay with the inaugural Austria Destination Summit, and we returned home more than impressed. This city on the Danube is packed with centuries of history and its tourism scene could explode over the next few years.
Where to Stay
Our experience in Vienna, though brief, offered all the traits one associates with a luxury destination. We stayed at the Hotel Imperial, one of the handful of five-star accommodations in the city. This luxury property sits on the famous Ringstrasse, the street that encircles the city center. Originally built as a palace in the 19th century for the Duke of Württemberg, the hotel is now considered one of the most luxurious in Austria. The top accommodations are the Royal and Imperial suites, the latter measuring up to 1,022 square feet. Agents can contact Rosemarie Regner ([email protected]), director of leisure sales, with queries.
In the running with the Hotel
Imperial are the world-famous Hotel Sacher Wien and The Ring Hotel. The city also welcomed the Sofitel Vienna last month, and is expected to open a Shangri-La property in the second quarter of this year. Popular names like Marriott and InterContinental will provide your budget-conscious clients with options as well.
|Hotel Imperial, a 19th-century palace, is now one of Austria’s best-known luxury hotels.|
Out and About
Vienna is steeped in history, from the streets flanked with former Hapsburg palaces to the Elmayer Dance School that has been teaching and perfecting the Viennese Waltz since 1919. There is enough in the city to occupy travelers for weeks, but we have assembled a list of highlights that are sure to thrill even your most picky clients.
Travelers with deep pockets and a taste for the refined would be remiss to pass on Kohlmarkt, the most elegant shopping district in Vienna. Tip: We suggest sending your clients to Vienna in the wintertime when the Christmas spirit is in full swing and the swank streets are speckled with twinkling lights. From November through the holiday season, the city is packed with Christmas markets. Your clients can purchase a host of Viennese sweets and crafts, all while sipping a mug of steaming glühwein, a popular mulled wine beverage.
Like many European cultures, the Viennese are a people of leisure, and it is not uncommon to see them spending long hours in coffeehouses sipping a mélange (one of the varieties of Viennese coffee) and snacking on delicate pastries like strudel. We recommend visiting Café Central, which is just steps from the Hofburg Imperial Palace.
Other cultural highlights include Schönbrunn Palace, formerly the summer residence of the Hapsburgs, which offers daily tours; the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera; the Spanish Riding School; and the MuseumsQuartier, which is a collection of the city’s museums housed in imperial buildings.
Selling Vienna (and Austria, too)
According to Petra Stolba, CEO of the Austrian Tourist Office and one of the key speakers at the Austria Destination Summit, the country as a whole seemed to fare well in 2009, holding 11th place globally in terms of international arrivals, welcoming 32.3 million visitors—this ranks second among the country’s all-time tourism numbers.
The figures for 2010 showed an increase of 10 to 13 percent, said Norbert Kettner, the managing director for the Vienna Tourism Board. “We owe this success to our partners,” he told us, referring to both travel agents and suppliers.
The country’s tourism campaign for 2010 was “Austria. Now or Never.” Explained Kettner, “We did a survey and we learned that people described Austria as ‘beautiful, elegant, classy and timeless.’” But those surveyed also felt that the country would have all these qualities in the coming years, too, thereby opting to visit other European destinations first.
In light of this, Austria’s 2011 campaign, beginning in March, will be called “Austria. Unique Like You.”
Michael Gigl, the regional director for North America, told Travel Agent that the purpose of this tourism campaign is to focus on hands-on experiences that set Vienna and Austria apart from the rest of Europe, such as its history, skiing, music, viticulture and cuisine.
|Austria’s imperial history, exemplified by this statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy, is on display throughout Vienna.|