November 06th 2020

Future prospects for COVID-19 Risk Management in Winter Season

Endergebnisse präsentiert | Neue Regelungen für sicheren Tourismus erwünscht | Alternativen im Leben mit dem Virus

COVID-19 Risk Management Winter Season delivers results and future forecasts. © MCI/Kasper
COVID-19 Risk Management Winter Season delivers results and future forecasts. © MCI/Kasper

Future prospects for COVID-19 Risk Management in Winter Season

Final results presented | New regulations for safe tourism requested | Alternatives for living with the virus

Due to the current epidemiological situation, winter tourism is facing changes, which are being recorded with the help of the research project of the Center for Social and Health Innovation (CSHI) at the MCI in Innsbruck. As COVID-19 safety measures will be a central component of all touristic activities in the winter season 2020/21, a life with the virus as well as alternatives for accommodation facilities should be considered for the future.  Preparations are being consistently pushed forward.

In the course of the study, tourism regions, cable car companies, accommodation providers and many more were interviewed in order to identify a uniform approach that can also be used profitably and to create uniform solutions for health and economy sectors.

More than 90% of the interviewees would like to have a common risk management for all tourism sectors. "We have to rethink at this time and also find alternatives for winter tourism. For example, accommodation facilities can be used for home office premises," explains Siegfried Walch, project manager at MCI.

The Austrian hotel and catering industry has prepared itself in an exemplary way for the winter season and now supports the security measures drawn up by the government and the Austrian Chamber of Commerce as soon as circumstances permit the catering and tourism businesses to resume operations. A Europe-wide regulation in addition is still pending.


- Accommodation facilities

In the second online survey, the group of accommodation establishments is particularly well represented. The evaluation within this group shows, that suggestions for measures for COVID-19 prevention in the field "gastronomy" are highly accepted. Especially the use of online reservation systems is perceived as particularly useful. In addition, changes of the infrastructure, in order to guarantee a weatherproof outside seating arrangements, are noticed by two thirds of the accommodating enterprises as meaningful and solutions for this concept are asked to be established shortly.

- Gastronomy

In the gastronomy sector, a guideline how to minimize COVID-19 risks during operation with regulations such as mandatory seating, registration or the rule of a maximum of six people at one table has been established. In addition, more than 80% of the surveyed hotels and bed & breakfasts in the CSHI survey consider it sensible to set a maximum number of guests for catering establishments in accordance with the legally applicable minimum distance (at least 1 meter) and are in favor of prompt implementation.

The results of the survey show that the majority of accommodation providers consider the prevention proposal of separate catering for à la carte and overnight guests to be sensible, but a clear majority (80.1%) is against the possibility of exclusive catering for overnight guests.

- Employees

In the "Employees" section, participants found it useful to split teams (75.3%). A classification of employee accommodations based on these groups was also rated positively (63.1% approval rate "reasonable").

- Networking

In addition, the regular networking of tourism actors, the sharing of practice-relevant ideas, as well as the implementation of these ideas with other interest groups are a central topic of the survey. Surveyed accommodation facilities show a high level of agreement in the second evaluation and ask for a promptly implementation.

- Risk Management

Already in the first survey (August), more than 90% of the respondents would like to see uniform risk management in all tourism sectors. Initiatives like Safe service Tirol, who want to make a country wide safety management possible, which goes beyond legal regulations, seem to have a lot of potential.

- Cable cars

For cable car companies, the WKO's Association of Cable Car Operators issued a manual at the end of August 2020. This manual contains a comprehensive list of measures with which ski resorts can individually prepare for the coming winter season, including the recommendation of personnel guidance systems to regulate the queuing situation. In October, 85% of the cable cars consider the equalization of queuing situations and streams of visitors by means of physical guidance systems to be sensible, and over 75% would like to see this implemented as soon as possible.


Sars-Cov-2 - the coronavirus is now part of our everyday life

The COVID 19 risk is now one of our everyday health risks, just like many other health risks. COVID-19 security can be established with simple behavioral measures: distance, hygiene, mouth and nose protection masks) and avoid closed rooms, crowds, groups. However, the implementation of these simple principles in the complex environment of tourism regions requires new operational concepts.

Possible alternatives for accommodation facilities

Due to the effects of the pandemic, many employers internationally introduced or pursued the establishment and expansion of home office models (OECD 2020). It is to be expected that this trend will continue to rise due to the increase in COVID-19 infection numbers in recent weeks. This sometimes poses many challenges for employees, such as access to a suitable workplace.

Through creative rethinking, opportunities could be seized here and synergies could be used. Already during the lockdown, hotel rooms were offered as "hotel offices" for hourly, daily or weekly bookings (ORF 2020; Graf 2020). In regards of the international increase in home-based work (OECD 2020), these models could continue to exist as an option for hotel companies and offer opportunities for reorientation or expansion. Especially for the urban population, this could be an attractive alternative. As an Italian study shows, the availability of a balcony, terrace, access to the garden and a nice view of the living or working space contributes to health and well-being.

International examples such as the "Project Homekey" in California, USA, show how hotels, motels or apartments can be turned into affordable housing with long-term availability in the wake of the pandemic. This raises the question of whether a new use of real estate currently used for tourism in Austria can also take place in coordination with the needs of the housing market? The entrepreneurial discourse on appropriate operating and financing concepts has to be conducted in conjunction with a political discourse on possible financing and associated rental regulations in order to link possible failure scenarios for this winter with entrepreneurial solutions.


As long as a European approach to risk assessment is not supported by all member states, respective travel warnings, testing strategies or quarantine regulations will continue to be shaped by national standards. Vorarlberg and Tyrol have been designated as risk areas by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) since September 23rd and 25th, respectively, and travelers returning to Germany are subject to the appropriate quarantine conditions.

On October 01 (curfew starting from 10PM) and November 03 (curfew starting from 8PM) new restrictive measures were implemented in Austria, with the aim to break the second wave. To what extent the current measures are able to contain the infection rate in Austria and in the federal provinces, however, is currently still open.

COVID-19 Risk Management Winter Season delivers results and future forecasts. © MCI/Kasper