Why should travel advisors have Austria and the Austria Hotel Collection front-of-mind when planning their clients’ travel plans to Europe? LATTE chats with Astrid Mulholland-Licht, the Director in Australia for the Austrian National Tourist Office, to find out what lures travellers to the country and learn more about the expanding Austria Hotel Collection portfolio.
We also quiz Mulholland-Licht on her suggested ‘must-see’ hot spots on a week-long itinerary through Austria and her top three most lavish things to do in Vienna.
The term ‘luxury’ has a vast array of meanings to people. Can you tell us what your personal definition of ‘luxury’ is?
I have seen a shift in the perception of luxury in tourism which I share: if we look at the hotel sector it’s not only about the biggest room size or the formality and grandeur of a place anymore. It’s more important than ever to give guests the feeling of being part of the local community. This could be a running group with the concierge who takes you to his or her favourite spots (or) a rooftop yoga session with a local yoga teacher who also happens to grow tea herbs in the garden and supplies the tea for the hotel. For me, sustainability is also fast becoming an important factor as luxury needs to be in harmony with how we treat our planet.
What’s the best time of year to visit Austria?
Austria really is an all-year-round destination. Each season has its own appeal whether it’s the Christmas markets in winter or hiking in summer.
Why should luxury travel advisors being recommending Austria as part of a European journey or a standalone holiday destination?
Austria has the unique combination of culture and nature. Nowhere else can you wander through historic palaces in the morning, meander through vineyards or find yourself on a 2,000 metre peak in the afternoon and attend a classical concert in the evening.
Where and what would your ultimate week-long luxury Austria itinerary for the first time visitor incorporate?
I think Austria’s small size is a big advantage if you only have one week, although one week is never enough!
Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck are usually on every first-time visitor’s itinerary. And there is nothing wrong with it but I think it’s important that visitors also experience the pristine nature our country offers. My top recommendations to get close to nature are the Salzkammergut (lake region), the Arlberg or the Ötztal Valley in summer and winter.
Are there any projects under development in Austria in the luxury space that you’re looking forward too?
There are a couple of exciting hotel projects going on in Vienna at the moment. The Mooons (170 rooms) boutique hotel on Wiedner Gürtel hopes to carve out a niche for itself from winter 2019 with a combination of smart, affordable luxury.
The Lenikus group is planning two hotels in Vienna’s historic city centre. Work to construct a five-star grand hotel with 75 rooms and suites on five floors of a heritage-listed Baroque building at Bauernmarkt 1 is scheduled for completion at the end of 2019.
What are yout top three luxury things to do in Vienna?
I think luxury is a lot about exceptional and memorable experiences. Here are some of my highlights:
- Vienna is home to 450 balls each year and attending on of them is unforgettable. You can take private dance lessons beforehand to master the waltz. Get driven to the Palace by a horse drawn carriage to start your night. It’s just magical.
- The Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna opens its doors outside regular opening hours for exclusive museum experiences. For example, listening to concerts performed on historical musical instruments that only a handful of modern musicians can play.
- Vienna is the only metropolis that grows enough wine within its city limits to make it worth mentioning which, I think, is already luxury in itself. Having a glass of Gemischter Satz, Vienna’s speciality, and to know it comes from a vineyard just down the road is very special.
How long has the Austria Hotel Collection been in operation and how can travel agents book the properties?
The collection started as a small campaign with only a handful of hotels and has grown over the years. In 2019 we have 20 members but we are always looking for more properties that meet the standards. Agents can find all hotels on our website with direct links to the booking page of each member: austria.info/us/accommodations/the-austria-hotel-collection
Which hotels within the group are popular with Australian audiences and why?
All hotels are curated for the Australian market and represent a broad variety from opulent and historical to modern design hotels. The hotels are spread throughout Austria and located in the main cities and regions which Australians prefer to visit, but there are also a few that are off the beaten tourist path.
What sets the Austria Hotel Collection properties apart from the rest?
Each of the hand selected properties offers its own take on the very best of Austrian hospitality from personalised service and Austrian “Gemütlichkeit” to unique experiences and exceptional dining. For example, at Hotel Bristol Vienna next to the Vienna State Opera, guests can have afternoon tea with the stars of the Vienna State Opera at Salon Opéra. Singers, conductors and directors will share interesting details about the productions and performances. The Arlberg Hospiz Hotel, part of the arlberg1800RESORT, has Europe’s largest collection of wines in large bottles which is open for tours and tastings.
What is the advantage for travel advisors selling from within the group?
Travel agents have the security that the hotel meets a certain standard of hospitality and luxury. The variety of properties makes it easy to find a hotel for every type of traveller.