What percentage of Austria’s GDP is from tourism? How much did its tourism industry lose during Covid?

Note: ** The most reliable figures are currently from 2022

A couple of days ago, I stumbled across an Austrian girl’s X post saying something like “If it wasn’t for tourists coming to Austria, the country would go bankrupt”.

Of course, that kind of hyperbole usually means the person has no idea what they’re talking about but, as a journalist currently based in Austria, I like to educate myself before I make up my mind someone might want to better educate themselves.

So I did.

And here’s what I found out when it comes to the percentage of Austria’s GDP that has come from tourism in recent years.

And no, just to set your mind at rest, without tourists, Austria wouldn’t go bankrupt.

Not even close.

Just like the country didn’t go bankrupt between early 2020 and early-2022, when the Austrian government shut down the country to a huge number of tourists due to a virus with a 99 percent survival rate for most.

What percentage of Austria’s GDP is tourism?

According to the Federal Ministry of the Republic of Austria, and you don’t get much better official data than from them, the percentage of Austria’s GDP back in 2019, before the Covid-19 panic, was 7.6 percent of the country’s GDP.

While a decent amount, it’s nowhere near the approximately 17 percent of the GDP from tourism of the last country I lived in — Thailand.

Having said that, it didn’t do much for the Austrian economy when, along with closing down the majority of businesses in Austria for months at a time, or banning the “unvaccinated” from visiting them — both of which severely damaged tourism from the domestic market as well — the government also prevented a substantial number of international tourists visiting Austria for the better part of two years.

That’s why in 2020, the Austrian Federal Ministry reports the percentage of GDP from tourism euros fell from 2019’s 7.6 percent to just 4.3 percent.

It then fell further in 2021 to 4.1 percent.

In euro amounts, by the way, the amount contributed to Austria’s GDP by tourism was approximately 37.9 billion euros in 2019, followed by a big drop to 21.3 billion euros in 2020, and then another drop to 20.8 billion euros in 2021.

In other words, in the two years Austria lost tourists due to the Covid panic, a mildly-educated guess based on previous figures would say the Alpine country likely lost at least 33 billion euros from tourists alone. (Simplistic calculation, but you get my point!)

In reality, it was likely more than that, as the amount of money international tourists bring into a country annually, as well as that spent by domestic tourists, usually rises year on year. It rarely falls.


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Where do tourists visit when they come to Austria?

As for what tourists do when they visit Austria, the country has an enormous number of things to do, see and experience.

It is no wonder then that, in 2022 (according to Statista — other organizations rank countries differently, so you can decide what you believe) — Austria is currently ranked as the 10th most visited country — behind France, Spain, U.S., Turkey, Italy, Mexico, United Kingdom, Germany and Greece.

Both international and domestic tourists visit the country’s Alps for hiking, skiing, camping etc, its nature parks, UNESCO world heritage sites (Austria has 10), and its thermal baths.

They head to Austria’s festivals and concerts, the ballet, the opera, the symphony, the theater, (more than 12,900 plays and concerts take place in Austria every year), the country’s beyond world-class museums, and its Christmas and Easter markets.

And, of course, they visit Austria’s cities overflowing with history, culture and sights — Vienna, Salzburg, Graz, Innsbruck, Linz and more.

So now you know the percentage of GDP tourism brings into Austria every year (approximately), how much the country lost during Covid (approximately), and have a quick idea of where tourists visit when they come to Austria. (Yep, approximately).

I will say though, as a non-Austrian who has lived in Vienna for almost eight years now, it is easy for me to see why so many people visit this lovely country every year, and why Austrians themselves love to travel in it.

Hell, I visited, visited again, then moved here. And then I rarely left.

About Michelle Topham

I'm a journalist, and the founder of Oh My Vienna. I have been living in Vienna since 2016 as an immigrant, because 'expat' is just a fancy word that means exactly that.