VIENNA (eTN) – Austria’s travel and tourism industry has plenty of reasons to celebrate. For one, it succeeded in increasing total number of overnights and visitors in 2008.

“It is a great success in these difficult times. In December, we even reached a high in total overnights at over 10 million, a historical record,” emphasized Petra Stolba, head of the Austria National Tourist Office (ANTO) during a press conference during the Austria and Central Europe Travel Mart, which was held recently in the Austrian capital.

Austria welcomed last year 32.58 million travelers, up by 4.7 percent who spent 126.5 million overnights, up by 4.2 percent. Germany remains Austria’s top market. With 50 million overnights in 2008 (+4 percent), Germans reached almost 40 percent market share, surpassing domestic overnights (33.9 million). Other important markets are the Netherlands (9.5 million), the UK (3.9 million) and Switzerland (3.6 million). The only relevant overseas market is the United States with 1.2 million overnights, in sharp decline over 2007 (-17.8 percent). Tyrol remains the most visited province as it generates 35 percent of all overnights followed by Salzburg Province (19.4 percent), Carinthia (10.2 percent) and Vienna (8.1 percent).

Austria has unveiled its new slogan, “Das muss Österreich sein” (or “It’s got to be Austria”). Its focus is to emphasize the value of Austrian culture, nature, lifestyle and tolerance. Linz being named this year as “European Capital of Culture,” and the commemoration of Haydn’s 200th death anniversary will certainly attract many Europeans.

According to Stolba, Austria’s budget for tourism will not be reduced in 2009 despite worsening economic conditions. “I can assure that the Austrian Government remains committed to tourism. We even got an additional budget of €4 million for promotion that we will affect to our neighboring and domestic markets,” she said.

From the additional fund, three million will go to domestic tourism and the rest to countries with borders to Austria. “We want to target countries which can easily reach Austria by car or train as we expect a decrease in air travel as well as from overseas markets,” Stolba explained.

The fund would help to contain an expected decline in arrivals in 2009. According to the head of ANTO, Austria could see a drop of 2 percent to 3 percent in total overnights this year. In total, Austria tourism budget represents €51 million with approximately 80 percent going for marketing purposes.

According to Pamela Widhalm, marketing manager for overseas markets at ANTO, new strategies are currently being evaluated to reposition Austria and attract new types of customers such as young affluent urbanites, especially from Asia.

To counter declining values in many currencies, such as the Australian dollar, the Korean won and, in Europe, the British pound and the rouble, Austria will make an effort to promote better value for quality. “We do not want to lower the quality of Austria’s tourism product by lowering prices,” said Peter Staudinger, head of international marketing Innsbruck Tourismus. “Once we are engaged into an infernal spiral of declining prices, it takes very long to return to previous prices level. We better head our offer to additional services or activities in packages.”

He added, “Instead of offering four-star hotel accommodation, for example we propose to our Asian travelers accommodation in very good three-star hotels.”