Why Tyrol has a problem with criticism!
The tone in the mountains is sometimes rough. It would be appropriate to be critical of the country’s Corona policy – even in tourism.
Criticism is not a welcome guest in the Tyrol. But since the beginning of the Corona pandemic, the self-proclaimed heart of the Alps has been the focus of media attention.
Austria’s first covid infections were discovered at an Innsbruck hotel in February 2020. The Ischgl disaster followed. People felt unjustly pilloried – from the Tyrolean head of Caritas to the Burgtheater actor Tobias Moretti, well-known Tyroleans came out to save their homeland. So that the “Tyrolean bashing” would come to an end.
Almost a year later, the groundhog greets us again: ski school clusters in Jochberg, ski lift clusters in the Zillertal, party tourists make the Arlberg unsafe in the middle of the hard lockdown.
And again the country is confronted with negative headlines. And again, the tourist-official Tyrol feels unfairly in the spotlight. Now even the Tyrolean ORF regional studio is rushing out to save the image. Criticism of the obvious misconduct is dismissed wholesale as “bashing,” and the critically reporting media are all degraded to “tabloid” status.
Tourism is regarded as sacrosanct, as the country’s savior, without which the children in the depths of the side valleys would still have to go out today in tattered linen pants to cultivate the steep mountain meadows. In fact, nearly 18 percent of Tyrol’s GDP comes directly from the tourism industry. Despite this, or because of it, the state ranks at the bottom of Austria’s income statistics. In any case, a significant pillar of the country, but one that obviously has a problem with self-reflection.
Goulash and crystals
One person who knows what it means to be considered a “critical spirit” in Tyrol is Andreas Braun. In 1981, as a young lawyer from Kitzbühel, he took over the management of what was then the Tyrolean Tourist Board, now Tirol Werbung. He set about bringing the country’s dusty image into the modern age.
Braun used irony as a stylistic device even before Felix Mitterer. He shot ironic spots about his own industry. The black-and-white posters with which Braun turned the stuffy, rural Tyrol into a cool lifestyle product are also unforgotten.
There was hardly a student flat-share in Innsbruck in the 1990s that didn’t use Tirol posters to spruce things up. Even in faraway Vienna, Tyroleans liked to outearn themselves as such with Braun’s subjects. But all his merits could not save Braun, the tourism pioneer, from falling out of favor in his homeland for years to come in 1994. What had happened?
He had dared to question the quality of local goulash abroad: “If I order a goulash in ten restaurants in Austria, the quality is bad seven times and good only three times.” Even today, Braun says, he is still asked about this statement.
That he managed the Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Wattens to become Austria’s most successful tourist attraction behind Schönbrunn Palace? Forgotten. That he transformed Tyrol into a zeitgeisty place of longing? Who cares about that? He dared to criticize. That is apparently unforgivable in Tyrol.
“Those who can’t laugh at themselves become ridiculous. I am pained by this irony-free attitude of Tyrolean tourism. Freely according to the motto: national feeling is also shown by those who are ashamed of their country,” says Braun today. He cannot understand why the official Tyrol currently feels “hated”: “If one is not open to criticism now, then when?”
The crisis must lead to the emergence of a new mindset in tourism, he says, change management must not remain an empty slogan. “The Tyrol brand must be charged with science, research and intelligent offers. Because we have a huge problem with the mass of non-future-oriented businesses in the state,” Braun criticizes.
Peter Plaikner also attests to the Tyroleans’ lack of critical faculties. The former deputy editor-in-chief of the Tiroler Tageszeitung and now a political and media consultant finds it “very difficult to reconcile the image of others with the image of oneself. Plaikner explains the anti-Vienna club that the Tyrolean People’s Party is currently wielding on social media as “a kind of inferiority complex – fearing, suspecting or even knowing that the Tyroleans are only a power in Tyrol.
Because it is not only in the Tyrol that what works in other federal provinces also works: lashing out against the capital when attacks come from outside and presenting them as unjustified vituperation, “completely independent of whether these attacks are justified or not,” says Plaikner. It almost goes without saying that the ability to criticize suffers as a result.
The ÖVP-affiliated communications expert Heidi Glück, who grew up in Tyrol for ten years, believes, on the other hand, that the biting reflex toward Vienna is anchored in the Tyrolean nature. “They feel independent and find it difficult to have anything imposed on them,” especially when “lowland Indians come out to dictate how things should be done in the ski resorts,” Glück says.
But one must also understand Tyrolean Governor Günther Platter, says Glück. “Who should represent the interests of the Tyroleans if not him?”
Politically, he has no room for options to act otherwise. Besides, everything is done to make skiing as safe as possible, he adds. “And you can’t possibly prevent a few black sheep. You can’t ban life,” Glück sums up the criticism surrounding the current clusters in Tyrol.
The current managing director of Tirol Werbung, Florian Phleps, explains how unfairly the tourist Tyrol feels treated. He did not want to grant an interview to the STANDARD. As also already in the spring 2020. Only written statements on sent questions are offered.
He considers the current media criticism to be “sweeping and generalized accusations against the industry, which are absolutely not justified”. The best example of this is skiing, Phlep’s statement says: “Open ski resorts have been subjected to ongoing accusations in recent weeks, cable car operators have been the subject of massive hostility. Again, the Ages has now stated that skiing is not a driver of infection.”
At the same time, however, Phleps stresses that he is in favor of “a clear line against all those who do not abide by the rules.” Because their behavior would bring Tyrolean tourism as a whole into disrepute. However, as Phleps rightly points out, the authorities are responsible for taking action against these violations and cracking down.
Nevertheless, he does not fear lasting damage to Tyrolean tourism: “For almost a year now, we have seen a lot of critical coverage pouring in about Tyrol. At the same time, the demand for vacations in Tyrol is the same. We are already seeing many bookings for summer 2021 and also already for winter 2021/22. Here we feel in particular the attachment of regular guests to the Tyrol.”
Phleps denies that Tyrolean tourism lacks the ability to be self-critical, as his predecessor Braun believes: “It can also deal with criticism if it is justified. But in my view, the industry is quite right to defend itself when individual incidents are projected onto Tyrolean tourism as a whole.”
Especially at the beginning of the Corona crisis, the first reaction to the criticism from outside the country’s borders was the demanded closing of ranks. This was garnished with a “Tirol haltet zsamm” campaign, including a song of thanks for 200,000 euros.
As the crisis continued, however, this cohesion sometimes crumbled. Disgruntled citizens increasingly contacted the media, and even the opposition is now taking the government to court:
“To dismiss any criticism of the massive failures of the black-green provincial government as ‘Tyrol bashing’ and to continue to turn a blind eye to the obvious mistakes is an insult to the people of our country,” says SPÖ Tyrol leader Georg Dornauer.
Dornauer says that it is “not the supposed ‘nest-destroyers’ but exclusively the ÖVP” that has caused permanent damage to the country’s image.
But what effect does such a self-image have on a country? What does it do to the younger generation?
According to PR expert Plaikner, a kind of meta-image has accompanied the state governor throughout his entire time in office, which has toned down the self-confident and rustic demeanor of legendary black politician Fritz Dinkhauser, but in the end adopts it. Because that works well and is still a guarantee of success in Tyrol
“The appearances in traditional costume, with brass band music, that is the self-portrayal of the country,” Plaikner says. That would have been much more modern under Platter’s predecessors. For the ex-minister of the interior and defense, this is successful, but he underestimates how strongly the traditional and rural orientation slows down sociopolitical development in the country.
There are more than a few in the country who say that he is right in this assessment.
Siource: Der Standard