Austria says EU sanctions not affecting tourism

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NEW YORK -- Diplomatic sanctions imposed on Austria in February by the 14 other European Union members were "not effective at all" in hurting tourism, according to Mares Rossmann, Austria's first state secretary for tourism in the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

For the months January through April 2000 compared with the same period in 1999, Austria saw a 200% increase in room nights from Belgium, a 29% increase from France and a 10% increase from the U.S., she said.

Speaking at a press briefing here, Rossmann, one of three female politicians in the Freedom Party, described the 1999-2000 winter season -- November through March -- as one of Austria's best in the last 10 years.

Room nights, totaling 47.3 million, showed an increase of 2.3% over the previous winter season, according to figures released by the Austrian National Tourist Office.

From January to March, U.S. visitors spent 249,668 room nights in Austria.

Vienna, where more than 40% of all U.S. visitors stay, recorded 118,000 U.S. room nights from January through April (a 4% increase from 1999) and 43,000 U.S. room nights in April alone (a 10% increase from 1999).

In 1999, the U.S. ranked eighth in the number of room nights from foreign visitors to Austria at nearly 1.6 million, with some 630,000 arrivals.

The additional Austrian Airlines gateways of Washington and Chicago, added March 26, and the strong dollar, which can buy 27% more than it could in 1999, are both expected to boost Austria's tourism from the U.S. in 2000.

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