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Saturday,  May 25, 2024 12:22 PM 

Austria sets sail in Toronto

Austria sets sail in Toronto
Daniel Pasquali, Marriott International/Starwood Hotels and Resorts; Sherif Sedhom, Lufthansa/Austrian Airlines; Christian Lassnig, Austrian Consulate; Rita Gily, Wien Vienna Tourism Board; Pablo Bolanos, Vienna Mozart Orchestra; Birgitta Samavarchia, Austrian Consulate.
Blake Wolfe

Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.

More than 60 travel agents converged on the Yankee Lady IV cruise boat, on the shores of Lake Ontario in downtown Toronto last night, for an evening of all things Austria.

Hosted by the Austrian Consulate, Austrian Airlines and other groups like the Mozart Orchestra and Marriott International/Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the cruise event showcased the latest that Austria has to offer the 26 million visitors it receives every year, including 100,000 Canadians. According to tourism representatives, Canadians stay longer than average "because they appreciate the culture."

In the past, the consulate hosted this event at Toronto's Casa Loma, but according to Christian Lassnig of the Austrian Consulate, they chose to do a three-hour harbour cruise for several reasons: "spectacular views of downtown Toronto, Austria's seafaring tradition (it once had a coastline), and now you're stuck with us."

And while Canadians love their Danube cruises, West Coast agents will be particularly interested to know that Austrian Airlines announced a new route from Los Angeles to Vienna. The route starts operation in April 2017, with up to six flights per week on a Boeing 777. The airline boasts several Skytrax awards, "the Oscars of the airline industry," according to Sherif Sedhom of Lufthansa/Austrian Airlines. They include first place for staff service in Europe, both on board and in airport, and third for their business class offerings. The latter includes an on-board chef, sommelier, 15-inch touch screens (with more than 100 programs), and 10 different kinds of coffee.

Once on the ground, there's plenty coming up for visitors to Austria in 2017. Mozart's Blue Danube waltz will be celebrating 150 years and to honour the anniversary, Rita Gily of the Vienna Tourism Board said, "If you book your client in a hotel they can book a private dancing lesson and look like a pro." The Vienna philharmonic orchestra will be marking its 175th year, and it will be Empress Elizabeth's 180th birthday. There will be a lot of exhibits for this unconventional queen, who was ahead of her time. "She had a fitness room, and didn't always follow court etiquette. At age 50, she got a tattoo while in Greece."

Of course, no tourist talk about Austria is complete without mentioning The Sound of Music, even though most Austrians have apparently never seen the movie. You can now have a Sound of Music wedding at various sites in and around Salzburg, including the actual Von Trapp family home, or in view of the mountain they escaped over at the end of the film, or the church where Maria and the captain got married. Salzburg will also be highlighting its churches in 2017. You can still find places of worship from Roman times when Christians were persecuted and worshipped in caves and tourists can “architectural time travel” by visiting churches built during different eras, in different styles.

For agents looking for a partner agency for Austria and central Europe, you can consider Botros Incoming (