Swiss helps draw tourists to Austria

Urs Kamber has taken his marketing magic to Austria

The man who invented the term "Heidiland" to sell holidays in eastern Switzerland is now trying to improve the fortunes of an Austrian resort.

This content was published on February 21, 2002

And he has brought many new ideas with him.

It's eight o'clock in the morning and Urs Kamber has already begun his working day. That would be nothing unusual in Switzerland - but this is the Austrian village of Lech, and the Swiss tourist director is at his desk when most of his co-workers are just getting out of bed.

It's a good thing, because Kamber has his work cut out for him. He has just received a new report from the national tourist board forecasting a further decline in Austria's share of the global tourism market.

And he has to correct a huge imbalance between winter and summer tourism. The ski season accounts for 85 per cent of overnight stays.

"Looking into the past, the most successful Swiss ski coach was an Austrian," Kamber says.

"He was a guarantee for success, so why not bring a Swiss to Austria to try to develop something with the Austrians. "Whenever you come from a different country you have a fresh perspective."

Not that anything was so wrong with Lech. Located in western Austria's Vorarlberg region, Lech has enjoyed a reputation for decades as a leading international ski resort.

Kamber is trying to keep it that way. In his first year and a half on the job his office has introduced innovative services to keep turnover high during the winter season.


"We introduced a special SMS service this year," he says. "Subscribers are informed via their mobile phones whenever it snows more than 15 centimetres."

If an SMS subscriber decides to head for the slopes, a message can be sent back in order to reserve a lift pass and parking space.

Kamber has also introduced an Internet hotel reservation system - a first for Austria - that includes every one of the 300 hotels in Lech and its partner resort of Zürs.

For years, the resort has limited the number of skiers on the slopes at any one time to 14,000, even though the lifts have the capacity for at least twice as many.

It's all part of Lech's philosophy to offer quality tourism, under the motto, "More time - more space".

However, Kamber knows that the resort has to attract more tourists in summer if it is to remain successful.

High altitude sport

Once a world-class track and field athlete who held the Swiss record over 400 metres, he wants to spread the gospel of the benefit for the common man of high-altitude training.

His office is taking advantage of the findings of recent research done in Austria, called the Austrian Moderate Altitude Study, which confirms the health benefits of doing sport in the mountains.

"We will base an individual coaching service on this study," he explains. "You can book a two-week holiday here in Lech.

"You will be greeted by a doctor, who will take blood and other necessary tests, and then we will put together an individual training programme. You can work out in small groups, go hiking or take part in other activities. We will guarantee that you will feel much better by the end of the holiday."

He says the market for health spas in the Alps is saturated and people want to be more active while on holiday, but they need specialists, Kamber believes, to provide the motivation.

Having hung up his track shoes about 20 years ago, he knows how difficult it is to keep body and soul healthy in middle age.

"I'm really a lazy guy," the Swiss director says with a laugh.

by Dale Bechtel

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