If you’re lucky enough to be heading to Austria this winter, count on skiing — but not partying.
In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, Austria Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz has announced some precautionary measures for the upcoming winter. The most notable change: no après ski parties the country is well known for. He said:
“It won’t be possible to have après ski the way we are used to from the past, because the risk of infection is too high…ski fun yes, but no après ski.”
Tourism is immensely important to Austria’s economy, and the government doesn’t want to risk new a lockdown. Overall, tourism accounts for 15% of Austria’s economy and provides hundreds of thousand of jobs. While the partying aspect of tourism only makes up 3% of overall ski tourism revenue, large events can cause “super-spreader” outbreaks of COVID-19.
Just this past March, the Austrian ski resort of Ischgl caught serious flack for remaining open for over a full week after the initial spread of COVID-19. A class action lawsuit against the resort is ongoing and includes over 6,000 people across Europe, including some from the U.S as well.
Along with the ban on après ski parties, additional protocols are being instituted to ensure a disruption-free winter season. Tourism Minister Elisabeth Koestinger announced the following:
- Table service only for restaurants and bars, no standing
- Face masks required, limited capacity chairlifts, minimum 1-meter required social distancing
- Resort employees such as hotel, restaurant, and lift staff, as well as ski instructors, will be tested regularly
Overall, Austria has seen roughly 44,000 cases of COVID-19, resulting in 790 confirmed deaths. There has been a recent increase in positive cases, prompting other European countries to caution citizens from travelling to Austria.