Austria announced Thursday that while the alpine nations ski resorts will be open and skiers are welcome, the nation is banning all apres-ski events (social activities after a day of skiing) during the upcoming winter tourism season.
Skiing and other winter sports are big business in Austria, making up as much as 15% of the economy. But in February and March, post-skiing partying in the clubs and bars of the popular west Austrian resort of Ischgl resulted in an outbreak that was considered one of Europe’s earliest “super-spreader” events of the pandemic.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters in Vienna that while they want to encourage tourists, things cannot be as they were.
“Skiing, eating out, nature and enjoying the hospitality, outdoor activities, shopping — not just in ski resorts but also in cities, a wellness vacation in Austria, culture tourism. All that will be possible this coming winter. What won’t be possible is apres ski the way we know it from the past. The risk of infection is simply too high,” he said.
The new rules will follow the same COVID-19-related restrictions for all bars, clubs and restaurants in Austria — table service only, with no standing at a bar. In closed ski lifts, face masks will be required, and passengers must stay 1 meter apart, the same as on public transport.
Ski instructors and lift operators, as well as hotel and restaurant staff, will be tested regularly.
Austria is working to bring a recent surge in COVID-19 cases under control, a situation that has prompted one of its top sources of foreign tourists, Germany, to issue a travel warning for one of its skiing regions, the province of Vorarlberg.