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Will Austria's Hallstatt restrict tourism this season?

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected]
Will Austria's Hallstatt restrict tourism this season?
Austria's Hallstatt village Image by Leonhard Niederwimmer from Pixabay

One of Austria's most beautiful and crowded villages is looking for ways to curb overtourism. Here are the restrictions that could be coming - and those that won't be implemented - for those wanting to visit the Disney-like jewel.

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The photo went all over the world: a makeshift wall was erected in Hallstatt's top "selfie" spot, a raised section of the main road where people would squish together for the perfect photo overlooking the quaint church by the lake. 

The residents of the small Salzburg town decided to strike back against overtourism in the region—a hotspot due to its charming vibes, which are said to have inspired the Disney movie Frozen. After a social media backlash, the village—which is also a UNESCO heritage site—removed the fence, but signs remind visitors to enjoy the site quietly.

 

Since then, some of Hallstatt's 750 residents have protested in favour of tourism curbs in the village – which gets as many as 10,000 visitors a day in high season. 

The Italian solution

One of the possibilities floated in Austria was to adopt the "Venetian model", with every visitor simply having to buy an entrance ticket. However, Mayor Alexander Scheutz (SPÖ) said he was against an entrance fee for the jewel of the Salzkammergut.

"Charging an admission fee would lead to guests taking away even more rights, which would create even more of a museum aura," said Scheutz. "There are also complicated legal aspects: How are we supposed to charge a penalty fee for guests from all over the world if they don't have a ticket? The effort would simply be too great."

However, the region is still looking for ways to curb overtourism. Governor Thomas Stelzer (ÖVP) recently went to Venice with a delegation to exchange ideas on the topic with the President of the Regional Council of Veneto, Roberto Ciambetti. 

READ ALSO: Four of the best hidden villages in Austria’s Salzkammergut region

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What is Hallstatt doing?

Even if entry fees are not planned, the village wants to "guide and regulate" visitors and create guidelines for when the area is "full" and no more tourists are allowed. 

A working group has been set up, and the first step will be to introduce precise measurements of visitor flows - something that had yet to be done until the local tourism association started carrying out counts at several checkpoints just last year. The results of these counts have yet to be made available.

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One thing that is already in place is time slots for coaches. Hallstatt has strictly limited time slots for coaches that determine how long they and their passengers can stay. "This is already working very well. In terms of overnight stays and day visitors, we are back to pre-pandemic levels—however, the number of coaches per day has halved, and we have not yet reached the maximum of 54 coaches per day," said Mayor Scheutz.

READ ALSO: 6 great alternatives to Austria’s overcrowded tourists hotspots

Still, he admitted, Hallstatt's busiest times are the summer months and around Christmas, so things are about to pick up there. So far, there have been no particular restrictions or extra payments for tourists travelling without bus companies.

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