The Panhans group of companies has total debts of €855,000, and the 113-room hotel cannot afford to pay the salaries of its 19 employees, according to a report in the Kurier newspaper.
The Panhans group, which includes three other hotels and a mountain railway, is run by a Ukrainian businessman called Viktor Babushchak. He told the Kurier that the company had been the victim of “public opinion”. “People felt that if Ukrainians were investing money in the company then oligarchs must be involved. We were even connected in some media reports to money laundering, even though we had nothing to that with that,” he said.
The consequences for the company and its plans to boost tourism in Semmering have been devastating. “The banks have closed all our accounts and we’ve not been able to transfer money from our investors to Austria for six months, so we’re not liquid,” Babushchak said. He said the affected transactions are not just from Ukraine but also from Germany and Switzerland. “If this pressure continues we will be forced to drop the entire project at Semmering and go somewhere else,” he added.
Originally, Babushchak wanted to invest around €55 million in expanding the hotels and mountain railway at Semmering but said that this now looks doubtful. “We see a great deal of tourism potential, but we cannot expect miracles in the short term,” he said.
The next scheduled World Cup ski races in Semmering are the Ladies giant slalom and slalom on December 28th and December 29th.
The Semmering mountain railway was awarded Unesco world heritage status in 1998 and is recognised as a masterpiece of civil engineering. Over 100 bridges punctuate the picturesque route, which was built between 1848 and 1854.