Vienna’s Austria Center has announced a strong set of results in 2019 despite ongoing modernisation work being carried out at the venue.
Throughout the first half of 2020 the coronavirus pandemic has had a notable impact both on the congress industry and Vienna as a destination for tourism, with the majority of large-scale international events either cancelled or postponed.
Unlike trade shows and fairs, which are now open to the public, there is still uncertainty when it comes to planning for congresses in autumn, with the venue offering special meeting packages with custom hygiene plans.
“2019 was a successful year in every respect, commented Austria Center Vienna managing director Susanne Baumann-Söllner. “Despite launching our major modernisation project, we were still able to build on the results posted a year earlier. And this year, bookings pointed towards yet another set of record results. But the cancellations and postponements caused by the coronavirus pandemic instead make it painfully clear just how important the congress sector is for Vienna as a destination for tourism.”
International guests helped secure more than 3,000 jobs in Austria in 2019. The venue saw 91,501 international visitors during the year, a 12% fall from the record total set in 2018 (115,938) due to the modernisation work carried out at the centre.
“We took a conscious decision to keep the centre open while construction work went on, splitting up the year into event phases and building phases in the process,” Baumann-Söllner explained.
The average daily spend for a congress attendee (€540) is around twice as much as that of the average visitor to Vienna. The number of participants in 2019 was comparable with the 2016 total despite the construction work, with the positive economic impact translating into induced GDP of more than €450m and over 3,000 year-round jobs.
An analysis of revenue from events and partners’ commissions painted a similar picture: at €13.2m, the total was down 10.5% on the record-breaking previous year (2018: EUR 14.8m).
Looking to 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has hit the international congress industry very hard.
“The postponements and cancellations over the past three months have also had a serious impact on the city’s hotel industry, restaurants and a great many partner enterprises in Vienna,” Baumann-Söllner confirmed.
For a number of weeks, there has been a clear positive trend – both in terms of measures set at a national level as well as vital border openings. However, the industry will have to brace itself for a complete absence of large-scale events until autumn at the earliest.
“We will only be able to fully determine the scale of the losses for Vienna as a business and research location in up to two years’ time,” Baumann-Söllner added.
The situation for this autumn is still unclear for the congress industry in Austria. While it has been possible to host trade fairs and non-trade events in the country without limits on participant numbers since mid-June – providing they comply with specific hygiene regulations – the latest amendment does not apply to congresses.
“As things currently stand, we still have two large-scale congresses planned for October and November. In light of the positive overall trend, I am confident that we will be hosting congresses with more than 1,000 participants once again from September. That said, the industry requires greater planning certainty right now,” Baumann-Söllner concluded.