The mayor of Hallstatt, Austria, would like to reduce the village's 1 million tourists per year by at least one third

By Ashley Boucher
January 06, 2020 10:06 PM
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A small town in Austria is struggling with how to deal with its booming tourism.

Hallstatt, a village in the Salzkammergut region of the European country, has seen a huge increase in the number of people visiting in recent years, and can see up to 10,000 tourists a day, according to a report from The Guardian.

Mayor Alexander Scheutz is saying he’d like the number of tourists visiting the lakeside town to decrease.

“Hallstatt is an important piece of cultural history, not a museum,” Scheutz told UK’s The Times. “We want to reduce numbers by at least a third but we have no way of actually stopping them.”

After a fire burned through a portion of Hallstatt’s waterfront in November, Scheutz temporarily closed roads into town and issued a statement for tourists to “stay away,” according to The Times.

“It didn’t work, they came anyway,” he said.

Hallstatt was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. It has been occupied by humans since prehistoric times, and is home to the world’s oldest salt mine.

Hallstatt shot to popularity among Asian tourists after it was featured on a South Korean travel show in 2006, The Sun pointed out, and receives more than 1 million visitors a year, Al Jazeera reported in October.

A Chinese mining company even replicated Hallstatt in the Guangdong province.

“In Hong Kong, we don’t have anywhere like this, just tall buildings and lots of people. Everyone knows Hallstatt, it’s famous,” one Chinese tourist told The Times of the village, which has been dubbed the “most Instagrammable town in the world.”

Hallstatt has been rumored to be an inspiration for the fictional town of Arendelle in Disney’s Frozen movies, and while the fairytale location is actually based on towns in Norway, Hallstatt does bear a resemblance to the snowy, lakeside landscapes featured in the animated films.

Hallstatt is not the first place to suffer from “over-tourism.”

In March, the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization published a report on the phenomenon, which looked at 18 cities ranging from London, England, to Dubrovnik, Croatia, to Venice, Italy.

The UNWTO said that challenges in cities with over-tourism include congestion at popular sites within the city, pressure on infrastructure and resources, and impact on residents’ daily lives, among others.

In Hallstatt, one resident who manages a local cafe told The Times that the tourists treat the town “like a movie set.”

A resident hotel manager added to the outlet, “the supermarket is basically a souvenir shop, it’s a real problem for old people to find fresh food.”