Wearing Out Their Welcome
When the Arabs come to Â town, others stay away: the men treat the waiters and other hotel personnel like second class humans. Many regular guests and visitors from the Netherlands and Germany are being scared off.
In the midst of the raging economic crisis, with the tourist industry in Austria experiencing a dramatic drop, the number of Arab visitors to Austria vacation spots remains the same. Even though Middle Eastern tourists are propping up the Austrian economy, not all Austrians are happy with the ethnic shift in the tourist industry.
Our Austrian correspondent ESW has translated an article from the print edition of NEWS magazine, published on August 13, 2009:
The Arabs are coming…
…and are spending a lot of money. Tourists from the Middle East spend more money during their vacation than all the others.
…but many don’t want them. In Zell am See, many restaurant owners are ranting against the Arabs.
Luxury tourists. Large Arab families are on tour in Austria and leave millions in the country. Still, not all of them are popular everywhere.
“Zell am See is prostituting itself,” rants Hermann Mosshammer in a regional magazine. “I want to be able to walk around town five years from now without a muezzin calling to prayer from a church tower.” He owns two cafÃ©s in Zell am See and has a problem with the tourists who hail from the Arabian peninsula. The lake, the mountains, the glacier: all wonders of nature in the Pinzgau [a district of Salzburg, an Austrian province] attract holiday makers from Dubai, Qatar, and other places.
Seventeen percent of all summer tourists in Zell am See are from the Arabian gulf. In July and August 2008, approximately 100,000 Arabs visited the city of 9,700 inhabitants, thereby saving the already limping summer tourism numbers. Austria’s capital, Vienna, also profits from this boom: there were a remarkable 137,000 overnight stays [an Austrian euphemism to count tourist stays] from Arab countries in 2008.
But not everyone is excited about the boom. CafÃ© owner Mr. Mosshammer is not alone in his opinion. NEWS visited Zell am See and many restaurant owners support what polls have shown: Eighty percent of those polled want to stop all promotional activities in Arab countries. More specifically, it is those in the restaurant and catering business who do not benefit from the Arab boom who do not see the exotic visitors as cash-cows saving their summer business, but who see them as part of a cultural problem.
“All the veiled women in their burqas are changing the appearance of our town. The men treat the waiters and other hotel personnel like second class humans. Many regular guests and visitors from the Netherlands and Germany are being scared off. We need a new and healthier mix of guests,” an agitated restaurant owner, requesting anonymity, tells NEWS.
Millions from the Middle East.
Such polemics are problematic and economically fatal, especially in a year of crisis such as 2009, in which tourism numbers in Austria are expected to dip by 3.5%. It is the Gulf Arab holidaymakers who can save the tourism industry from a total collapse. Sheikhs tend to vacation with a different budget compared to central Europeans. The national average shows that visitors from the Middle East spend at least 30 percent more than all other tourists; they stay at five-star hotels, often with their extended families, and shopping is their favorite activity while vacationing.
There is no crisis mode.