Vienna faces challenge of Austria’s Qanta/Emirates veto

Issues & Trends – May 2013

Vienna faces challenge of Austria’s Qanta/Emirates veto

Norbett KettnerUNLIKE all the other European countries to which Emirates flies, Austria’s regulators did not give the green light to the Qantas/Emirates alliance.

So Vienna is the only one of Emirates’ 30-plus European gateways that is not now receiving Qantas code-shared flights.

As Vienna Tourist Board’s managing director Norbert Kettner acknowledges, that means he faces a challenge in the Australian market.

His city will miss out on the promotional support that Qantas will give its suddenly expanded range of European destinations (not to mention that a significant slice of the population will opt to travel on flights carrying the national flag carrier’s code).

No surprise, therefore, that, during a flying visit to Melbourne earlier this month, Kettner made sure he met with senior Emirates executive, Dean Cleaver, to discuss promotional possibilities.

He said he was received cordially but he admitted there is “a certain level of frustration” within the airline over Austria’s stance and agreed there was no reason to suppose the Middle East carrier would be falling over itself to rescue Vienna from a situation created by Austria’s refusal to approve the alliance proposal.

He said he is taking a “pragmatic” approach and did not rule out the Vienna Tourist Board contributing to a co-operative campaign in conjunction with Emirates. Kettner was also keen to point out that Austrian Airlines, which has recently upgraded its inflight offering with a revamped business class, provides “an excellent service” to Vienna from Bangkok. “We have very good relations with both airlines (Emirates and Austrian). We depend on them both,” he said.

Although he did not say so, Kettner is also entitled to point out that Vienna has been doing very nicely out of the Australian market in the absence of flights bearing a QF designator.

The first two months of this year saw a whopping increase of 43.2 per cent in arrivals from Australia compared to January and February last year. Bed nights were up 32.9 per cent in the same period. These results came on the back of solid increases for calendar year 2012 when the 62,063 arrivals from Australia represented a 9.3 per cent increase and bed nights went up 11.2 per cent to 148,885.

In fact, Vienna attracts 44 per cent of all Australian visitors to Austria, well ahead of Salzburg and Innsbruck, the next two most popular Austrian destinations for Australians.
Strategically, Vienna is positioning itself as a “premium” destination – a term Kettner prefers to luxury.

“We don’t want to exclude anyone, that’s always a dangerous game. We offer value for money. We are a premium destination on every level – even budget,” he said.

Shopping, of course, is an element of this and Kettner pointed out that Women’s Wear Daily has recently named Vienna as Europe’s new hot spot after London, Paris and Milan.

He said the city will this year see an eight per cent increase in beds partly as a result of the opening of new five-star boutique hotels, with the Ritz Carlton and Kempinski marques set to join the Park Hyatt.

The Vienna Tourist Board produces marketing “tool kits” for each source market that cover aspects such as partners, segments and messages.

“But in general, our message is that if you want to experience Europe, Vienna is the place where you encounter all the influences,” said Kettner.

• Kettner was in Melbourne to address a Destination Melbourne forum. He told travelBulletin that his city and the Victorian capital have much in common including a strong coffee culture – “You have amazing coffee here.”

He identified some of the assets that the two cities have in common as liveability, safety, arts and culture. “Like Vienna, Melbourne has a strong brand and is a destination in its own right,” he said.


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