The city of Vienna is gearing up for a 2022 comeback with an emphasis on celebrating life, the arts, its vibrantly-diverse culture and all things extraordinary, from its more than 100 museums to its unrivalled reputation for cakes, pastries and classic coffeehouses.
Vienna, which is home to more than 200 castles and palaces, has spent the past year breathing new life into its world-famous arts and cultural landscape.
Despite many challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, new attractions have continued to open in Austria’s classical capital located on the Danube River.
The enduring appeal of Vienna is rooted in its rich history, which is shaped by an artistic and intellectual legacy due to iconic figures who once lived there, such as Mozart, Beethoven, Sigmund Freud, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and others.
Klimt, known for his famous painting, “The Kiss,” for one, is being celebrated this year in a new 360-degree digital art exhibit, “Immersive Klimt: Revolution,” created by Italy’s Massimiliano Siccardi, who was the brains behind the critically-acclaimed Immersive Van Gogh exhibit.
The Klimt experience, with 500,000 cubic feet of projections, 60,600 frames of video, and 90,000,000 pixels, debuted at the Toronto Star building at 1 Yonge in October, allowing patrons to step into the late-19th-century artist’s works, from water lilies, vibrant blooms, and mermaids to his acclaimed Golden Phase to the romantic streets of Vienna.
In Vienna, the world’s largest collection of paintings by Klimt is on display at the Upper Belvedere (24 works, including The Kiss). In addition, the world’s largest collection of Klimt’s sketches can be found at the Wien Museum.
Within the context of travel, Klimt is “the key to unlocking the even bigger picture of what the enduring appeal of Vienna is,” said journalist Richard Ouzounian, addressing travel pros at a breakfast event hosted by the Vienna Tourist Board and Kensington Tours last Thursday (Nov. 25) at Toronto’s Bisha Hotel.
Ouzounian, who wrote the Immersive Klimt catalogue and served as a consultant for the exhibit, pointed to the Vienna Tourist Board’s slogan, which is “Now. Forever.”
“You may also say now, then and forever,” he said. “It’s not a city that is nothing but its past, but it wears its past, it accumulates its past and it takes it present and into the future.”
The show must go on
As destinations continue to grapple with rising COVID-19 infections and new variants of the virus, all the while trying to revive travel and tourism using layers of protection, the future remains a challenging and unpredictable space.
Austria is no stranger to taking pandemic-era precautions: a nationwide lockdown is currently in effect until at least Dec. 13.
Hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, cultural institutions and leisure centres are closed and travel to Austria, for tourism purposes, will only be possible again until the restriction is lifted.
(Click here to access Austria’s travel portal, where the latest updates are posted).
It’s the latest of a long line of setbacks that all destinations, worldwide, have experienced and, with resourcefulness, have overcome with various stages of success.
The show must go on, as the saying goes, especially when the going gets tough.
“We think the lockdown will be successful and that it will be a short one,” said Gregor Postl, consul and trade commissioner at Advantage Austria, the trade promotion organization of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber. “After, we will open as it was before.”
Meaning: if you’re fully vaccinated, you’ll be able to travel around Austria without hassle, beyond having to show proof of having a complete series of COVID-19 shots.
“Travel is pleasure,” Postl told PAX, “and Austria is a country where you can find not only pleasure, but also culture and nature.”
The country is a “good starting point for Canadians travelling to Europe,” he said.
“We’re seeing demand grow”
At Kensington Tours, which formed a partnership with the Vienna Tourist Board in October, sales on European trips are up 50 per cent from November 2019, company President Helen Giontsis said last Thursday.
“And sales for Austria are surpassing that,” she said. “We’re seeing demand grow and we’re looking forward to 2022. It’s going to be a spectacular year.”
Kensington’s partnership with the Vienna Tourist Board will “really enable us to take that further and get to our agent community that we work so closely with,” she said.
Tatiana Czuchnowsky, director, sales – Europe at Kensington Tours, called Vienna a destination that “Kensington has been proud to support and feature in our itineraries over the years.”
Noting its many palaces, such as Hofburg and the Belvedere, its Museumsquartier, its classical opera scene and its world-famous schnitzel, “Vienna really is a feast for the senses,” Czuchnowsky said.
The company’s destination experts specialize in developing curated itineraries, she said, and Kensington also has a Vienna Spotlight section on its website that shows sample trips with activities like horse-drawn carriage rides through the city and private tours.
Next quarter, Kensington will target its network of 30,000 travel advisors in North America with training sessions, via Facebook Live, featuring guests from the Vienna Tourist Board.
‘We’re excited to bring more information to this group of people,” Czuchnowsky said.
Greater than before
Arts and culture are part of Vienna’s DNA and the city’s offering of these two things show no sign of slowing down.
2022 will bring a number of new museums like the Lower Belvedere and the return of the Heidi Horten Collection.
The “world capital of music” is set to add another attraction in 2022: the House of Strauss at Casino Zögernitz.
The Sigmund Freud Museum, also, reopened last year after extensive renovations. Here, you can see where Sigmund Freud lived and worked.
And the Albertina Modern, too, recently opened, granting patrons access to 60,000 modern and contemporary works by 5,000 artists, from Andy Warhol to Roy Lichtenstein.
“We have a greater cultural offer than before the crisis – and this is an impressive achievement,” the Vienna Tourist Board’s Director Norbert Kettner told PAX in an interview last September.
Vienna, with some 990 parks and gardens, is also a very green city – 53 per cent of the city’s surface area is accounted for by green spaces.
It’s also the only major city in the world with extensive vineyards within the city limits – some 700 hectares of vineyards and 140 winegrowers.
Vienna’s outdoor activities will play a key role in its recovery next year, suggested Armando Mendonça, president of AMPM, which represents the Vienna Tourist Board in Canada.
“I think 2022 travellers will want a more outdoor, active experience than ever before,” Mendonça said. “I want agents to know that beyond the city streets of Vienna, there is amazing hiking and cycling trails and other great activities that revolve around enjoying the fresh air. (Click here to learn more).
Exploring Vienna’s classic coffee houses is also a must-do activity, Mendonça said. (Click here for more).
Vienna waits for you
In July, Air Canada restored its Toronto-Vienna service with three weekly frequencies.
In Oct., Air Canada codeshare partner, Austrian Airlines, resumed direct service to Vienna out of Montreal, also with three weekly flights.
Brendan Shashoua, director of sales, Canada at the Lufthansa Group, said the company was “really, really happy” to reintroduce the Montreal service, but the group “offers way more flights to Europe and all of them can connect onto Vienna.”
In summer of 2022, the Lufthansa Group will introduce a Halifax-Frankfurt service with Eurowings Discover, which will allow travellers in that region to fly, via Frankfurt, to Vienna “or any other destination in Europe,” Shashoua said.
Richard Ouzounian summed it up best last week, ending his presentation by quoting singer Billy Joel: “When will you realize…Vienna waits for you?”
For travel updates, as well as info on Vienna attractions, events and itinerary ideas, click here.
The Vienna Tourist Board also offers sales tools via its “Vienna Experts Club International” program. (Click here to register).