Real-life Arendelle that begged tourists to stay away – now wants them back: Austrian village that inspired Frozen had one million visitors last year, now the streets are empty
- Hallstatt was rumoured to be an inspiration for fairytale kingdom Arendelle in Disney’s Frozen film series
- As recently as January this year, the village’s mayor sought to limit the number of tourists to the village
- Reports suggested that tourists were entering people’s houses to use the toilet and flying drones
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
A tiny Austrian lakeside village rumoured to be an inspiration for Arendelle in the Disney film series Frozen that had to limit tourist numbers is now longing for visitors to return to its empty lanes.
Hallstatt, population 780, estimates it had a million day-trip visitors last year, before the coronavirus pandemic halted international tourism. Other European hotspots once suffocated by selfie-snapping visitors face a similar fate.
The Frozen link has been responsible for lots of visits in Hallstatt, along with a view that gained renown in Asia thanks to a South Korean TV series filmed there and a partial replica of it built in China.
Hallstatt only has a population of 780 but was said to have welcomed one million tourists last year
Hallstatt is nestled in the Salzkammergut region of lakes and mountains east of Salzburg
The Frozen link has been responsible for lots of visits to Hallstatt, along with a view that gained renown in Asia thanks to a South Korean TV series filmed there and a partial replica of it built in China
Arendelle is the main location in the Frozen film series and the birthplace of characters Anna and Elsa
Nestled in the Salzkammergut region of lakes and mountains east of Salzburg, Hallstatt often attracted attention for efforts to restrict the number of buses stopping there and for monetising short visits, such as by charging one euro to use the toilet.
Now it wonders when it will face that challenge again.
‘Recently it was too much, and it was perceived as too much and as a curse, and we kept taking measures,’ Hallstatt’s Mayor Alexander Scheutz said.
Hallstatt’s little lanes and walkways were packed with people last year, so much so that the mayor tried to limit the number of tourists
Mayor Scheutz closed several roads to try and deter visitors. He once said: ‘Hallstatt is an important piece of cultural history, not a museum’
‘We in Hallstatt, of course, depend 95 per cent on foreign guests… from Asia, from America, from England and the surrounding European countries,’ said Markus-Paul Derbl, who runs a restaurant
Mayor Scheutz at one time had the aim of reducing visitor numbers by a third, but admitted he had ‘no way of actually stopping them’
In January, MailOnline reported that the village had become packed with visitors taking selfies, flying drones and even letting themselves into residents’ homes to use the toilet.
One cafe owner was quoted as saying: ‘My mum woke up one day and found some Chinese tourists in her bedroom.’
Scheutz had urged the hordes to stay away and even closed several roads to try and deter them.
He said at the time: ‘Hallstatt is an important piece of cultural history, not a museum.
‘We want to reduce numbers by at least a third, but we have no way of actually stopping them.’
Austria acted early in its coronavirus outbreak to shut restaurants, bars, non-essential shops, museums and other gathering places six weeks ago. That helped flatten the curve of infections, which are increasing at less than one per cent daily.
The government said that justified a step-by-step loosening of the lockdown, starting with DIY and garden centres as well as smaller shops, which were allowed to reopen two weeks ago.
Restaurants, cafes and bars are due to reopen on May 15, followed by hotels on May 29. But the borders remain essentially closed in a country heavily reliant on tourism.
‘If I had to give a prediction (for the summer) it would be a very sad, bad one but I am an optimistic person – the landscape is beautiful, we are a (Unesco) World Heritage site, and the people are welcoming,’ Scheutz said
‘We in Hallstatt, of course, depend 95 per cent on foreign guests… from Asia, from America, from England and the surrounding European countries,’ said Markus-Paul Derbl, who owns a restaurant, souvenir shop and other businesses.
‘If the borders stay closed it will be very, very difficult to keep business going properly.’
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said he hopes the border with Germany – Austria’s most significant source of foreign tourists – will reopen soon, but Germany has been cool on the idea. It is unlikely Germans alone could fill the gap for Hallstatt, which had 145,000 overnight stays last year.
‘That is rather hopeless perhaps, but I do think we have a name and are known, and of course, we are glad when guests from Germany come here,’ Mayor Scheutz said.
‘If I had to give a prediction (for the summer) it would be a very sad, bad one but I am an optimistic person – the landscape is beautiful, we are a (Unesco) World Heritage site, and the people are welcoming.’
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