For anyone who wants to visit the picturesque mountain village of Hallstatt again, please don’t do it. At least that is the wish of mayor Alexander Scheutz, who even had roads closed to stop the enormous hordes of tourists. “Hallstatt is an important piece of cultural history, not a museum.”
The Austrian Hallstatt is a world heritage and famous for its pastel-colored houses on the shores of a beautiful lake. The idyllic and tiny Alpine village with nine hundred inhabitants has been on the map of mass tourism for several years. Buses full of holidaymakers run off and on every day. A big boost for hoteliers and restaurant owners, but not for much longer. According to the mayor, Hallstatt can no longer handle the enormous influx. “We want to reduce the number by at least a third, but we can’t really stop them,” he tells The Times.
Until the 1960s, Hallstatt was only accessible by boat. After a road to the village was built, tourism started almost immediately. Since then, the fairytale-like salt-mining town has always been loved, but about seven years ago, it all exploded after project developers completely reconstructed it.
In the Chinese province of Guangdong, an Alpine village with an artificial lake, with the same name and appearance, emerged from nowhere. The amusement park aroused the interest of many millions of Asians who flocked to Austria to visit the ‘original Hallstatt’.
Tourists in bedroom
A year later, Hallstatt even became world news after being named as the primary source of inspiration for the fictional town of Arandelle in Frozen, perhaps the most successful Disney movie. Since then, fans have been making plenty of selfies, having drones take off, posing for wedding photos, and even ringing in residents’ homes to use their toilets. “My mother woke up one day and found some Chinese tourists in her bedroom,” a café boss told local media.
And then there’s the effect of Instagram, which shouldn’t be underestimated. On the social network, the number of images with the hashtag #Hallstatt grew explosively year after year. In the world’s digital photo album, Hallstatt shines more than 500,000 times. This mega-interest seems fun and beautiful, but for the mayor and the locals, it has become more of a curse than a blessing. They fear that the tourists will eventually destroy the village and that a lot of its original splendor will be lost.
“It’s a disaster. Many visitors seriously think this is a theme park,” hotel owner Verena Lobisser told local media last year. Shop owner Sandra Derbl shares the same view. “It’s madness! I don’t know what to do. People aren’t buying anything anymore,” she bragged to German magazine Focus. Outside, the day-trippers wriggle their way through the narrow streets and take pictures of the picturesque place, but apparently, they don’t buy anything. Only hoteliers and restaurateurs benefit from mass tourism here,” says Derbl.
Mayor Alexander Scheutz sounded the alarm a few years ago. Politicians and citizens put their heads together in search of a solution to curb mass tourism. According to the inhabitants,” it was especially important to reduce the number of coaches,” Scheutz said last year. In February last year, the city council decided to introduce a slot system for buses this spring along the lines of Salzburg. This means that bus companies will have to book a slot (time) online to get to Hallstatt.