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TRAVEL NEWS

KEY POINTS: Austria announces new rules for winter tourism

"Strict rules, safe winter" is the ethos behind Austria's newly announced rules for the winter season, the Tourism Minister said. So what does it mean for ski resorts, Christmas markets and hotel stays?

Christmas Market outside Vienna City Hall
Christmas markets get the go-ahead, but with entry restrictions. Photo: WienTourismus/Christian Stemper

“It is important for the tourism industry that they now have the security to plan and prepare for the season. I am very pleased that this has been successfully agreed upon,” Austria’s Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger said as the new set of rules were announced on Wednesday.

The precise details of the regulation will not be clear until it is passed later in the week, likely on Friday or Saturday, but the government has explained the main rules that will apply. Here’s what we can expect this winter.

Markets

Christmas markets are set to go ahead across the country, with a requirement for proof of 3G (vaccination, recovery from Covid-19, or a negative test) in order to enter.

This means that the market area will be clearly defined by a fence or tape, with staff checking people’s Covid passes as well as further random checks inside the market.

Dining and hotels

The rules that apply in these venues depend on the national risk level. Austria has been at level 1 since September 15th, and would enter level 2 from seven days after national intensive care bed occupancy exceeds 15 percent, going up to level 3 from seven days after intensive care bed occupancy exceeds 20 percent.

At a level 1 situation, these can be accessed with proof of 3G; at level 2, rapid antigen self-tests are no longer accepted as 3G; and at level 3, the 2.5G rule applies (proof of vaccination, recovery or a PCR test only, not an antigen test, even if it was carried out by a professional).

The rules are slightly stricter for what’s called ‘night gastronomy’ (late-night dining and drinking, such as pubs and bars) — see below.

Ski resorts

Proof of 3G will also be mandatory in cable cars, except in situations where the cable car is being used as a means of public transport, for example by local residents.

This means that a pass to a cable car is only considered valid for as long as your 3G proof is valid (ie. if you are showing a negative PCR test, your ticket is only valid until 48 hours after your test). If you bought a ticket before this rule came into effect, it means the ski resort will likely have to check your 3G proof repeatedly.

Apres-ski venues and ‘night gastronomy’ (including outside ski resorts) are covered by the same rules. These mean that at a level 1 situation, these can be accessed with proof of 3G; but at level 2, the 2G rule applies, meaning that only proof of vaccination or recovery are accepted for entry. 

Could things get stricter?

Yes, if the situation requires — but it’s extremely unlikely we will see another lockdown. If Austria goes beyond level 3 with more than 20 percent of intensive care beds occupied, stricter measures can be brought in, which the government has said are likely to apply to unvaccinated people in particular.

Note that individual states have the power to introduce stricter rules at the regional level. Municipalities will also get increased powers to introduce restrictions on night gastronomy including reduced opening hours.

If you have questions about Covid-19 or another issue linked to life in Austria, contact our editorial team at [email protected] and we will do our best to help. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Austrian Airlines expands flight connections to Berlin ahead of winter

Austrian Airlines announced on Friday it would launch new weekly flights to Berlin, including a Berlin-Innsbruck route.

Austrian Airlines expands flight connections to Berlin ahead of winter

In the 2023 winter flight schedule, Austrian Airlines (AUA) said it would increase its offers to and from Berlin and include a new Berlin-Innsbruck route with a weekly flight.

From January 28th to February 25th, the company will fly passengers from the German capital to the Tyrolean city on Saturdays, aiming to give winter tourists more connections and travel possibilities. The airline already has routes connecting Innsbruck to Vienna, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Stockholm and Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The best websites for cross-Europe train travel

In total, Lufthansa Group airlines will fly to Innsbruck up to 48 times a week during the peak ski season, the AUA parent company said in a press release.

“With this seasonal service, we are giving our flight program to Berlin an upgrade. Our winter sports-savvy passengers will enjoy the convenience of a direct connection to Tyrol.

READ ALSO: Train travel in Austria: 6 ways you can save money

“Austrian Airlines and the Lufthansa Group significantly contribute to strengthening tourist traffic in the region with almost 50 weekly flights to Innsbruck,” says Austrian Airlines CCO Michael Trestl.

The company added that the Vienna-Berlin route would also be expanded with an additional flight on Saturdays around the semester break, the company added. This will benefit not only city tourists travelling to Vienna or Berlin but also numerous transfer passengers who travel via Vienna as a convenient hub for their onward flight.

READ MORE: Five European cities you can reach from Austria in less than five hours by train

Winter routes

Austrian Airlines is not the only company offering more rules for the winter season.

The low-cost company Ryanair announced eight new routes would be included in the program of its flight scheduled from Vienna, as The Local reported.

READ ALSO: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

The new routes are Bremen (Germany), Manchester (England), Copenhagen (Denmark), Helsinki (Finland), Genoa and Venice (Italy), Tuzla (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Sibiu (Romania).

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