Austria will require protective face masks and COVID-19 passes for the use of ski lifts this winter as it tries to attract foreign skiers for the first time in two years and also prevent coronavirus outbreaks.
The conservative-led government outlined the rules for the coming season at a news conference that underlined the importance of reviving tourism, which directly contributes about 5% of economic output in Austria.
The new rules stop short of requiring all skiers to be vaccinated and left many details unclear even though public frustration over confusing coronavirus rules has grown.
“This year there will definitely be winter holidays in Austria,” Tourism Minister Elisabeth Koestinger said. “We have developed strict rules for a safe winter.”
She struck a contrast with the previous winter season, when resorts were open but hotels closed, in effect preventing foreign visitors coming to ski.
Skiers will have to wear face masks on enclosed ski lifts and show they have been vaccinated, tested or have recovered from COVID-19 when they book a ticket, she said.
It remained unclear how unvaccinated people on long hotel stays would be asked to keep proving they had recently been tested.
COVID-19 poses a challenge for ski resorts as although skiing is an outdoor sport, plenty of time on ski holidays is spent in enclosed and often crowded spaces such as ski lifts and mountain restaurants.
The new measures include classifying apres-ski bars as nightclubs. What counts as an apres-ski bar will be defined locally.
Rules for nightclubs are due to tighten as intensive care units fill up. At their strictest, only patrons who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 will be let in.
“There will no longer be apres-ski as before the pandemic,” said Guenther Platter, the governor of Tyrol province, which includes top ski resorts such as Ischgl, where Austria’s biggest outbreak happened last year.