Skiing at Christmas? Who can get out of lockdown first and when will it be in Austria?
The number of Covid cases has to go down, is the mantra. There is no fixed number that can be used as a guide. Ski resorts and hoteliers still hope that the slopes will open.
Snow is made on the Planai, the Schladminger’s local mountain. In the other winter sports strongholds of the country, piste makers are also keeping an eye on the thermometer these days. If the mercury column sinks below zero, the snow cannons are started. It was like that for many winters and is no different this year.
“We don’t know when it can start, but we have to be prepared,” says Gerhard Pilz from the Schladming Tourist Association to STANDARD. “Otherwise it could happen that we are allowed to start, are in a warm weather phase and cannot start because the snow is missing.” In any case, we try to make the slope preparation as cost-effective as possible.
December 18 as the target date
Like the people of Schladming, there are many in the country this year. The hope for a good winter season is gone, damage limitation is the order of the day. Even if the strict lockdown ends on December 6th, hotels and lifts will probably only be allowed to unlock later.
Michaela Reitterer, President of the Austrian Hotel Association (ÖHV), mentions December 18 as a realistic date. First, trade and schools would probably be allowed to reopen.
Whether the gastronomy will also be part of the first wave of the gradual opening could be decided in the coming week. The number one criterion is the number of infections and their development. Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) spoke of “2,000, better still 1,000”, referring to the number of new infections every day that one would have to come across in December.
“Far from it”
“The number of cases should be seriously depressed,” says Robert Seeber, chairman of the tourism and leisure sector in the Austrian Chamber of Commerce. He could envision country-specific solutions, so that in regions where the infection rate is falling sharply, the unlocking takes place more quickly than elsewhere. “But we are still a long way from that,” admits the Upper Austrian.
In Germany, an incidence of 50 is the measure of all things, i.e. 50 newly infected people per 100,000 inhabitants on a weekly average. Austria is currently at 430, but was much further above it.
But what specific guidelines are coming from politicians and experts? Is it safe to ski with 1000 cases a day?
The simulation researcher Niki Popper, who sits in the task force of the Ministry of Health, emphasizes that calculations on winter tourism are difficult to do. Leisure time is particularly difficult to measure for researchers. But above all, there is a lack of basic data to be able to do this: There are currently no figures on how long contact tracing takes in individual federal states. Without such a value, however, it is not possible to see how many other people will infect someone who has corona, the sooner they can be isolated.
No specific guidelinesAlthough the pandemic has been raging since March, there is little positive for the tourism industry to hold on to.
Hoteliers deal with this uncertainty differently.
While hoteliers in regions with a high proportion of Austrians among their winter guests, such as Carinthia, Styria or Salzburg, want to open up earlier, colleagues in the West are on the brakes.
Refusal for Italy’s winter season
The Italian premier, Giuseppe Conte, has the idea that the ski slopes across Europe should remain closed until mid-January in this exceptional winter.
“I can’t get any info from the Italians in advance,” says Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger. “Winter holidays in Austria will be safe. Our companies already have comprehensive safety concepts for skiing holidays. There will be no après-ski this year, for example.”
And Finance Minister Gernot Blümel says: “If the EU actually pretends that the ski areas must remain closed, that means costs of up to two billion euros. If the EU really wants that, it has to pay for it.” Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder also advocated closed ski areas.