Bollywood boosts Austria’s tourism potential


CHENNAI – Bollywood is playing a significant role in promoting Austria as a popular holiday hotspot for Indians, the Austrian tourism industry believes.

The country is fast emerging as a popular tourist destination for Indian holidaymakers. Around 56,000 tourists from India visited the country last year. The Austrian National Tourist Office (ANTO) estimates the number will grow by 15 per cent next year.

The ANTO organised a workshop here on Wednesday to interact with local tour operators and travel agents to spread the word on what Austria has to offer.

Around 60 per cent of the Indian visitors were leisure travellers. Austria is also one of the world’s biggest destinations for corporate travel and the ‘MICE’ (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) industry.

More than two-third of the tourists from India visits the mountainous Alps region, according to Theresa Haid of the Tirol tourist board. Tirol is one of nine provinces in the country and its scenic landscape is increasingly targeted by the Indian film industry, so much so that the province is popularly referred to as ‘Tirollywood’.

“More than 70 Bollywood productions have been made in Tirol,” Ms. Haid says. “We had 43,000 visitors from India last year, and the film locations are a great attraction.” While most of the traffic is from Mumbai and New Delhi, there is now a growing proportion from the south.

The increased air connectivity has helped to boost tourism. Austrian Airlines introduced daily, direct flights from Mumbai and New Delhi to Vienna two years ago. It is also seeking to shortly introduce flights to Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Amay Amladi, General manager (Western and Southern India), Austrian Airlines, says they are awaiting government permission to introduce flights to the south. The Indian and Austrian Governments were still working on the agreements.

Besides the Alps, capital Vienna and Salzburg, where ‘The Sound of Music’ was filmed, are popular among Indian tourists, says Wolfgang Reindl of Austria Congress, a tour company. “Innsbruck [in Tirol] is extremely popular as it’s the gateway to the Alps,” he says. “Vienna is another attraction for the imperial Hapsburg palaces, and Salzburg for the music concerts and its musical history.”

While the summer is the peak travel season, Mr. Reindl warns that visiting Austria for a quiet getaway this June may not be the brightest idea. Austria is one of the hosts of the Euro 2008 football championships, and hundreds of thousands of football fans from all over the world are expected to travel to the country, raising hotel prices and crowding the usually quiet city centres.

“We expect more than 100,000 fans from just Greece,” Mr. Reindl says. “The city centres will all become fan zones, so there will be limited access for tourist groups. But if you’re here for Mozart and mountains, this might not be the best time.”