Friday,  October 22, 2021  12:39 am

“Vienna is alive & visible again”: Talking fall travel with Vienna Tourist Board’s Norbert Kettner

“Vienna is alive & visible again”: Talking fall travel with Vienna Tourist Board’s Norbert Kettner
Norbert Kettner, director, Vienna Tourist Board. (WienTourismus/Peter Rigaud).
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Faced with ever-changing border rules and restrictions, travellers these days might be starting to lose their patience.

“But people will not give up travelling,” says the Vienna Tourist Board’s Director Norbert Kettner, touching on the optimism he feels as Vienna enters the fall season with a renewed sense of energy in the wake of a tourism recovery.

Vienna, home to some 850 public parks and gardens, 200 castles and palaces and more than 100 museums, has spent the past year safely reopening its attractions to resuscitate its world-famous arts and cultural landscape.

It hasn’t been an easy road, but the classical city located in northeastern Austria on the Danube River refuses to back down from the challenge. 

Vienna is home to some 850 public parks and gardens, 200 castles and palaces and more than 100 museums. (WienTourismus)

“Vienna is alive and visible again,” Kettner wrote PAX in an email last week. “Despite last-minute planning, art fairs and festivals, such as the Vienna Design Week, are taking place.”

“Of course, you need to work harder and more focused than before. But a pandemic is not a problem that can be solved alone – on the contrary, maintaining seamless, uninterrupted contact with international partners is also hugely important.”

Security & reliability

Ensuring secure holiday planning with reliable services and individual advice is the Vienna Tourist Board’s top priority right now, Kettner said.

Vienna, currently, has a “3G requirement” for entering hotels, bars, restaurants, coffee houses, museums, nightclubs, cinemas, theatres, opera houses and other venues.

This means you must prove you are either recovered from a COVID-19 infection in the last six months, have a valid negative COVID-19 test result or have been fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine.

Vienna is shaped by an artistic and intellectual legacy due to the many famous figures who once lived there. (WienTourismus)

Click here for a breakdown of Austria’s COVID-19 entry protocols for hotels and restaurants. This page here also provides useful information on how Austria’s “entry tests” work. 

It’s also important to note that, in Austria, vaccination certificates can expire as time passes.

One’s dosage validly ends 360 days after their second inoculation with a two-dose vaccine or 270 days after inoculation with a single dose vaccine.

Reconnecting with Canada

But the Vienna Tourist Board is banking on its close relationship with Canada, where double-jabbed citizens (the majority of which received their second dose this past summer) still fit within Austria’s one-year vaccination window.

On July 8, Austria unveiled relaxed rules for entry and pre-travel clearance for Canadians. (Click here to learn more).

And then, on July 21, Air Canada restarted its Toronto-Vienna service with three weekly frequencies onboard its state-of-the-art 787 Dreamliner.

Vienna International Airport welcomed back Air Canada passengers and crew on July 22. (Supplied)

This Oct. 1, Air Canada codeshare partner, Austrian Airlines, will then resume direct service to Vienna with three weekly frequencies from Montreal.

READ MORE: Austria relaxes entry, quarantine rules for Canadian travellers

“This service by Air Canada and Austrian Airlines between Vienna and Canada is becoming increasingly relevant again for both tourists and business travellers,” Kettner said.

Fall into creative Vienna

Vienna's vast arts, culture and museum scene continues to bloom this fall.

The historical city is shaped by an artistic and intellectual legacy due to the many famous figures who once lived there, including Mozart, Beethoven, Sigmund Freud, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and others.

The Sigmund Freud Museum, for one, reopened in 2020 after extensive renovations. Here, you can see where Sigmund Freud lived and worked.

The Albertina Modern also recently opened its doors, granting visitors access to 60,000 modern and contemporary works by 5,000 artists, from Andy Warhol to Roy Lichtenstein.

The Albertina Modern. (

Contemporary art in Vienna is not only prized in a cultural sense, but it is also “woven into the fabric of the city’s buildings and public spaces,” reads the tourist board’s September newsletter.

READ MORE: Touring the reopened Sigmund Freud Museum, virtually, with the Vienna Tourist Board

Vienna’s theatres and opera houses also have a range of premieres lined up over the next few months. (Click here for details).

“We have a greater cultural offer than before the crisis – and this is an impressive achievement,” Kettner said.

And that momentum is expected to carry over into the winter months.

“Vienna is the ideal winter destination with its palaces, museums and world-famous coffee house culture,” Kettner said. “But I am also convinced that top art exhibitions, such as the current large Modigliani exhibition, and of course the Christmas markets from November onwards, will once again attract many visitors to Vienna.”

Digital city guides

Progress in the digital sphere, too, has propelled Vienna into the smartphone age. 

“Our products have become even more contemporary,” Kettner said, noting “ivie,’ an app that serves as a digital city guide, offering visitors insider tips, anecdotes and stories about special places in Vienna.

READ MORE: Customers will “come back enchanted”: Air Canada restarts Toronto-Vienna flights

Vienna’s attractions are all within reach, placed either a short distance apart or separated by a quick ride on public transportation.

Click here to learn more about the ways you can discover Vienna by foot.

Hotel & rooftop restaurant boom

The city’s hotel and restaurant scene is in the midst of “real boom” too, Kettner said.

This month, two high-end boutique hotels are opening: the MOTTO Hotel and "Die Josefine.” Then, in the next two to three years, “two real jewels” of luxury hotels will open: the Rosewood Vienna and the Mandarin Oriental.

To get a sense of where restaurants are going, the best place to look is up. Vienna’s rooftop dining scene is bubbling.

READ MORE: “The travel advisor is back”: Pros gather at Limitless TO with Travel Edge, Vienna Tourist Board & AC

In August, Swedish furniture giant Ikea opened “hus,” an innovative city centre location featuring a greened facade, the Ikea Snackbar (on the roof), as well as a hotel called JO&JOE.

Vienna’s "most musical rooftop bar" has been open for business on the roof of the new Jaz in the City hotel in the sixth district (Mariahilf) since mid-August 2021: the rooftop mariatrink bar has panoramic views, innovative cocktails, dishes made from regional ingredients and the all-important "feel-good factor" - velvet seating.

The new NENI am Prater offers top views of the Prater amusement park and city centre. 

There's also MQ Libelle, which opened in summer of 2020 and is located in the middle of Vienna's MuseumsQuartier, one of the world’s largest cultural complexes. 

MQ Libelle. ( Eugen Koller)

The MQ Libelle (ed. Libelle = dragonfly) is perched on top of the roof of the Leopold Museum – home to the city’s leading museum of Viennese Modernism which has the world’s largest Egon Schiele collection.

(Click here for more on Vienna’s restaurant and bar openings).

“It is very dynamic and lively in Vienna at the moment,” Kettner said.

All eyes on luxury

Crafting unique experiences for luxury travellers has long played a role in the Vienna Tourist Board’s strategy.

“The city, with its rich palaces, pastries and art collections, is made for the international luxury guest,” Kettner said.

The tourist board, earlier this month, released “Vienna – A Luxurious Journey,” an inspirational video, straight from the Freudian playbook, that draws on a “dreamlike interplay of elegance, materiality and sensuality” to encourage people to visit Vienna. 

For Armando Mendonça, president of AMPM, which represents the Vienna Tourist Board in Canada, luxury in Vienna is visiting “Kohlmarkt,” a pulsating and vibrant pedestrian zone in the heart of the city centre and home to Viennese and international luxury brands.

“Luxury in Vienna is more than a brand name,” Mendonça said. “It’s how the Viennese make you feel.”

Armando Mendonça, president of AMPM, which represents the Vienna Tourist Board in Canada. (Supplied)

“Fear is not an option”

The Vienna Tourist Board hasn’t gone quiet either during the pandemic. Over the past 18 months, the team led several initiatives to stay engaged with travel advisors, tour operators, partners and consumers. 

The tourist board, last April, launched a campaign called “Greetings from Vienna,” which included a personalized video message from the b2b Team at the Vienna Tourist Board to showcase what awaits. 

Its Vienna Showcase series has also taken participants on tours of Vienna’s always-evolving arts and culture scene. 

VIDEO: “Like walking into a painting”: Vienna Tourist Board takes Toronto on live, virtual tour

But staying relevant during a global crisis also requires a commitment to roll with the punches (and let’s face it, there have been many) and the courage to move forward.

“Learning how to quickly understand what both travellers and the destination needs is key,” Kettner said.

“I believe that travel will come back with a big bang, and until then, we need to protect our assets and make sure that visitors recognize the city when they touch down in Vienna again.”

“Personally, I remind myself of this: Fear is not an option. Ever.”

The Vienna Tourist Board offers sales tool to keep travel advisors informed, such as “Vienna Experts Club International.” (Click here to register). 

There’s also a dedicated trade section on the Vienna Tourist Board’s website, which is updated often. Click here to view. 

Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!  Click here to follow PAX on Facebook.