2020 Vienna Tourism Conference: Reshaping Vienna

The coronavirus crisis and its effects on Vienna's entire visitor economy, and the innovative plans and strategies in place to help the city deal with the current situation were the main topics under discussion at this year’s Tourism Conference. The event was attended by 200 guests in person at the Hofburg, with a further 1,000 participants following proceedings on a live stream.

The basic principles of Shaping Vienna presented under the 2025 Visitor Economy Strategy at the 2019 Tourism Conference – which puts the focus back on the city itself and its positive development in the interests of local residents and businesses as well as visitors – continues to shape the evolution of the city in the age of the pandemic. Now called Reshaping Vienna, the overarching focus is on finding a route out of the crisis together and turning threats into opportunities.

Covid-19 rapid tests and custom prevention plan: "Positive signal for Vienna as a meetign destination"

A bespoke prevention plan was put in place for the 2020 Tourism Conference, which saw two lanes set up outside the main entrance where participants were screened using a new Covid-19 antigen rapid testing system. This year, the get-together usually held at the venue after the event did not take place for safety reasons. However, viewers of the stream were invited to join a virtual networking session with Norbert Kettner and Doug Lansky, a tourism consultant and travel journalist who gave a keynote. Additional air filtration units not strictly required under the official guidelines, assigned seating and plexiglass dividers at potential pinch points were among the measures laid out in the prevention plan for the event.

"The successful staging of the 2020 Vienna Tourism Conference sends out an important signal for Vienna as a destination for meetings. Strict safety precautions and the use of innovative measures mean that it is possible to host meetings where participants are physically present, even in the current difficult circumstances," explained Christian Woronka, head of the Vienna Convention Bureau.

A united front from the outset

Director of Tourism Norbert Kettner opened the event and reflected that it was precisely city tourism's greatest strengths – year-round tourism, international catchment, and large number of cultural, conference and other events – that make starting again under the new circumstances so difficult. And it brings the importance of tourism for the wider economy into sharper focus than ever before, both in terms of employment and all the other aspects of the city’s infrastructure. Afterwards, politicians and stakeholders discussed specific ways of supporting tourism in Vienna. Peter Hanke, Vienna's Executive City Councilor for Finance, Business, Digital Innovation and International Affairs, and President of the Vienna Tourist Board, drew attention to the funding provided by the city council specifically for tourism, which is designed to support businesses and protect jobs. Applications for funding of up to EUR 50,000 per operation under the WienHotel/20 program for the city's accommodation providers opened on October 1, 2020. "We will only weather the crisis if the city's overall network functions correctly. Which is why we look at employment and business together in every solution," he explained. He went on to say that the city sees itself as a partner to the Viennese economy, and also wants to give all young people who are currently unable to complete their training the opportunity to train at different companies.

Norbert Kettner: Tourism in Vienna in 2020

Norbert Kettner presented developments in the city's visitor economy in a comparison with its international peers. After two very successful months at the start of the year, there was a dramatic slump in March, and activity came to a complete standstill in April and May. After an equally difficult summer and the latest round of travel warnings, the industry is left facing a very uncertain fall and winter. One bright spot is that the necessary legal framework for safely holding Christmas markets has now been put in place, and that rapid testing has already been used successfully in various parts of the city's visitor economy. The Vienna Tourist Board is currently aligning its reactivation activities to a phased four-step plan. During this process, which ultimately leads towards complete freedom of travel, the focuses are – depending on the phase – on inspiring and animating future visitors and servicing the industry and guests.

Reshaping Vienna

The motto for this yea'’s Tourism Conference was also the central topic for a panel discussion involving experts from sectors that play a pivotal role in the destination's development. Members included Michaela Huber, member of the Board of ÖBB-Personenverkehr AG; Julian Jäger, Chairman of the Management Board of Vienna International Airport; Gerhard Hirczi, Director of the Vienna Business Agency, Thomas Madreiter, Planning Director at Vienna City Council, and Norbert Kettner. Vanessa Borkmann, Head of Research in the Hotel and Tourism Sector at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering and head of the collaborative FutureHotel research project, appeared via a live feed.

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