The tiny village of Hallstatt is famous for its beautiful baroque architecture and the world’s oldest salt mines, and has become very popular with Asian tour groups. However, locals have complained that the tourists are regularly disturbing services at the village’s Protestant and Catholic churches, and even disrupting private funerals by taking photos of the mourners.
‘Bouncers’ are now being employed to man the church doors during services, and prevent tourists from entering, and are also guarding the cemetery gates during funerals.
Pastor Dankfried Kirch told the local newsletter BezirksRundschau that services now only begin once the church door has been locked, or if there is someone manning the door. During funerals, the grave-digger now has an additional task – asking tourists to stay away from the mourners and to refrain from taking photos and using selfie-sticks.
On All Saints’ Day, on November 1st (a national holiday in Austria), locals complained that they were disturbed as they went to light candles and lay flowers at their relatives’ graves by a group of tourists whispering and waving cameras around – something which they felt was disrespectful. Since then, the entrances to the cemetery have been guarded during burials and special occasions. The chairman of the parish council, Reinhard Kerschbaumer, said that locals must also be prepared to stand up for their beliefs and let visitors know when their behaviour seems disrespectful.
At all other times, tourists are welcome in the churches and the cemetery and information sheets are now available in Chinese, as well as other languages. Kirch says that he’s received positive feedback from Asian tourists; “They’re really glad when they have information in their own language, as many hardly speak English.” China has its own version of Hallstatt – a replica housing development in Boluo County which features a copy of the Protestant church, the fountain, and various other landmarks from the Austrian village.
The real Hallstatt has a population of around 750 people. 80 percent of people who live in Hallstatt depend on tourism for their livelihoods. According to recent estimates, 600,000 people visit the village each year, and many of them stay for a night or more. The tourist office for the Salzkammergut region is investing heavily in bus services, which will run until 10pm – so that tourists are able to travel to other places more easily and Hallstatt will not become too overcrowded.