Tourism Analysis May to July 2021: 24.3 Percent More Revenue than Last Year

Rapid Recovery in the First Three Months of the Summer Season
With the opening in the tourism and hospitality industry after the lockdown on 19 May 2021, the Austrian tourism industry recorded significant year-on-year demand growth in the first half of the summer season (arrivals +24.1 percent, overnight stays +19.5 percent, revenues nominally +24.3 percent).

According to current WIFO estimates, the projected increase in demand for the entire 2021 summer season amounts to an expected increase of 10.5 percent compared to 2020 (–24.7 percent compared to the 2019 season). Nevertheless, the outlook for the 2021 calendar year remains gloomy, with around 22.1 percent fewer overnight stays than in 2020 and only half the occupancy rate compared to the pre-crisis year 2019.

After a lockdown-induced total breakdown of the 2020-21 winter season with just under 1.2 million arrivals and 5.6 million overnight stays (–92.7 percent and –90.7 percent, respectively, compared to the 2019-20 winter season), tourism demand recovered more quickly than in the previous year following the lockdown end in mid-May, also due to the earlier restoration of freedom to travel within Europe. In the summer season to date, from May to July 2021, 25.8 million overnight stays and 7.3 million arrivals were recorded in Austria (+19.5 percent and +24.1 percent, respectively, compared to the same period last year). However, this means that the first half of summer 2021 is still significantly below the same period in 2019 (overnight stays –33.6 percent).

Overnight demand from the international guest segment, which is more important in Austrian tourism, recovered more dynamically than that of domestic travellers (foreign tourists +21.3 percent or +2.65 million, domestic guests +17.0 percent or +1.55 million compared to May to July 2020), although this is partly due to the very low level of overnight stays by foreign guests in the previous year.

According to initial WIFO estimates, nominal tourism receipts amounted to 5.0 billion € in the period under analysis (+24.3 percent, including day trips and visits by relatives)[1]. In this context, although demand in the first half of the 2021 summer season recovered most strongly in Vienna (+57.7 percent), the volume of overnight stays was nevertheless only 22.7 percent of the 2019 level. Burgenland, Lower Austria, Upper Austria and Styria recorded above-average increases in demand, while the western provinces lagged behind the Austria-wide momentum. Carinthia recorded a relatively low increase in overnight stays of +8.5 percent compared to the same period last year, but achieved 81.8 percent of overnight stays in the May-July 2019 period (Austria 66.4 percent) due to relatively high demand in the previous year.

Outlook summer season and calendar year 2021

The currently very rapidly rising COVID-19 infection rates in Austria and the most important European source markets of the domestic tourism industry, coupled with the low vaccination rate in this country, make it impossible to provide an accurate forecast of tourism development until the end of 2021. Moreover, it is not yet known with which concrete measures policymakers will react to this infection dynamic, even if a new complete lockdown as in the fall of 2020 seems rather unlikely, it cannot be excluded. The tightening of access restrictions currently under discussion in Austria, such as a "1G rule", as well as possible national entry or exit test obligations will have a significant impact on the guests' travel behaviour.

After only two-thirds of the pre-crisis level of overnight stays was reached in the first half of the 2021 season, WIFO's current estimates assume that a level of 59.5 million overnight stays will be reached for the entire 2021 summer season (May to October) (+10.5 percent compared to 2020, –24.7 percent compared to 2019). In this context, demand from international guests is expected to decline by about 34.0 percent to 36.8 million overnight stays compared to the 2019 season (+16.2 percent compared to 2020), while that from domestic travellers will be between the volumes of summer 2020 (22.2 million, +2.4 percent) and 2019 (23.3 million, –2.4 percent) at about 22.7 million. In this context, as in the summer of 2020, this year's season is forecast to show a much more positive tourism development for rural areas than for cities and the urban areas, with outflows due to increased foreign travel by residents expected to be compensated by higher foreign demand. Compared to summer 2019, overnight stays in Vienna are thus almost two-thirds below summer 2019; for the other provinces, the demand gap compared to 2019 is between 6.1 and 27.0 percent.

With the worsening epidemiological situation in Austria, the outlook for the remainder of 2021 remains significantly clouded. Assuming that there will be no new pandemic-induced business closures and that international borders will remain open (and that foreign visitors returning from Austria will not be subject to quarantine requirements in their home countries), it seems entirely plausible that the number of overnight stays in November and December 2021 will be a quarter lower than in 2019. Based on these assumptions, which are associated with a high degree of uncertainty, the figure for the calendar year 2021 is around 76.2 million overnight stays, which is half the previous peak of 152.7 million overnight stays in 2019 and also around 22.1 percent below the level of the crisis year 2020. Responsible for this are the supply-side restrictions until mid-May of this year, which mainly affected the winter months January to March, which are so important for Austria's tourism industry.

From a regional perspective, the balance could be more positive in Lower and Upper Austria as well as Burgenland, with the advantage of spa tourism as well as the low dependence on international guests. Carinthia and Styria also benefit strongly from domestic tourism, while the foreigner-oriented western provinces of Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Salzburg are expected to see losses of between 32.7 and 36.0 percent compared to 2020 (53.3 and 56.7 percent compared to 2019). The expected increase in demand in Vienna (+8.1 percent compared to 2020) remains low.

A full recovery of the Austrian tourism industry and thus a return to the level of overnight stays seen in 2019 will only be possible once the pandemic has been fully overcome. Some demand-side changes (e.g., replacement of business travel by virtual meetings) are likely to be permanent.

[1]  It should be noted that, due to the lack of statistical information on the part of revenues beyond overnight tourism, these revenues were assumed to follow the same trend as overnight visitors.

Press release
Rasche Erholung in den ersten drei Monaten der Sommersaison
Finalization: September 2021