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Friday, 4 February, 2000, 21:34 GMT
Austrian tourism braced for boycott

It could be downhill for Austria's ski resorts
Austria's tourism sector is braced for damaging fallout following the inclusion in the country's new coalition government of the far-right Freedom Party.

There was mounting anxiety in Austrian ski resorts as some cancellations were reported immediately, but it is future bookings where massive losses are feared.


An image problem can spell death to tourism
Half a million of Austria's 8 million population have jobs connected to the tourism industry and it accounts for 6.5% of the gross domestic product, which is higher than tourist centres like Spain and Greece.

"Usually it is danger, catastrophes, earthquakes and such like which put tourists off," Vienna tourist board director Karl Seidlinger said.

"But when a country receives continuous negative commentary abroad, that will certainly take its toll on the market."

One resort near Salzburg reported that it had already lost a total of 15,000 nights booked in the town during the summer season after an Israeli operator pulled out.


The view from Belgium: Skiers trace Nazi insignia
There are also reports that a major medical congress in Innsbruck in 2001 may be scrapped under pressure from sponsors in the US.

Tourism bosses well remember the drop in bookings following allegations that former president Kurt Waldheim was connected to wartime atrocities.

Immoral trips

Belgium's Foreign Minister Louis Michel has asserted that going skiing in Austria would be "immoral" and recommended his compatriots do not travel there.


Picturesque Salzburg: Tourism is big business in Austria
Belgian newspaper De Morgen published an illustration of skiers forming SS insignia, with a caption reading: "Is skiing on Austrian slopes getting even more dangerous?"

About 350,000 Belgians take skiing holidays in the Austrian Alps annually, but there is no indication they will listen to their government's boycott advice.

Tourist managers quoted on Friday offered opinions ranging from: "Haider is an idiot" to: "It is all media exaggeration".

But most agreed that - if the impact is minor at first - the blackening of Austria's image will have a detrimental effect on tourism revenues in the future.
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See also:

03 Feb 00 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Haider and the Auschwitz survivor
03 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
MEPs back sanctions threat to Haider
02 Feb 00 |  Europe
Joerg Haider: Key quotes
03 Oct 99 |  Europe
Profile: Joerg Haider
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