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Travel law: What the corona lockdown in Austria means for vacationers


First Austria was classified as a high-risk area, now the lockdown applies. Are skiing and vacationing in the alpine country even possible? Is there any money back? An overview.

Enlarge image

Stubai Glacier: Austrians can go on the slopes for physical relaxation

Photo: Yosuke Hayasaka / AP

Corona infections in Austria have skyrocketed.

Like Greece and the Czech Republic in the meantime, the country is a high-risk area, and the government has also imposed a lockdown.

Is your already booked skiing holiday in Tyrol or Carinthia on the brink?

What applies from a travel law perspective?

What is the situation like in Austria?

On Wednesday morning, Austria's crisis team reported 15,365 new corona cases;

the number of beds occupied by Covid patients in the clinics continued to rise to more than 570. The seven-day incidence these days is around 1100.

Since the beginning of the month, the 3G rule at work and the 2G rule, which prohibits unvaccinated people from visiting local places, have been in effect in Austria.

A lockdown went into effect for everyone on Monday, November 22nd.

It should last until December 13th for vaccinated people and longer for unvaccinated people.

Austrians are only allowed to leave their private living quarters in exceptional cases, for example to drive to work, buy groceries or help people in need of assistance.

"Staying outdoors for physical and mental relaxation" is also permitted.

The catering is closed, only to-go food and drinks can be picked up here.

Hotels are only allowed to accommodate business travelers or people who can substantiate other compelling reasons.

Is it even possible to ski during the lockdown?

Contrary to expectations, the operation of ski lifts and mountain railways was in principle permitted in compliance with the safety rules.

The Ministry of Health in Vienna pointed out on Tuesday that ski areas with a 2G certificate can also be visited during the lockdown.

This is good news for locals who are allowed to go up the mountain for physical relaxation.

For holidaymakers from Germany, however, for whom a short trip across the border is not possible, there is no green light in the lockdown: »Accommodation establishments, restaurants, cultural and leisure facilities are closed during the lockdown.

Tourist trips to Austria are therefore de facto not possible during this time, ”said the country's tourist office.

How do the ski areas react?

Despite the lockdown, several ski areas want to start their lifts soon - for vaccinated and convalescent people who are not dependent on overnight stays.

In Kitzbühel, for example, it is “slope free” as soon as the snow conditions allow it, as reported by the Austrian news agency APA.

In Axamer Lizum near Innsbruck, skiing will start on December 3rd with a week's delay.

The next steps on the Arlberg had not yet been determined.

In Salzburg, larger ski areas plan the start of the season even in lockdown if the snow conditions allow.

Security measures against the coronavirus apply everywhere.

Ischgl wants to start the winter season on December 3rd - a good week later than originally planned.

After the announcement of the lockdown, the kick-off planned for this Thursday was initially canceled.

You first had to clarify the exact specifications, said Günther Zangerl, chairman of the Silvrettaseilbahn, on Tuesday on request.

The Tyrolean community, previously known for its après-ski scene, from which the coronavirus spread far beyond Austria's borders in early 2020, had already issued an alcohol ban in public places for the original start date.

“We sincerely hope that the food and lodging restrictions will end on December 12th.

The winter season would really start on December 13, ”said Zangerl.

Because German guests could theoretically come - but Ischgl is not the closest destination for day trips from Germany.

What are the rules after the lockdown is lifted?

Depending on the development of the corona infections, the ski season could also be possible for non-Austrians from mid-December if the lockdown is lifted.

Then the 2G rule still applies in reopened businesses such as hotels, restaurants or at Advent markets - tests are no longer recognized as evidence of admission.

Children under twelve are exempt.

Austrian youths between 12 and 15 years of age have to show the so-called ninja passport, there are still no regulations for foreigners.

FFP2 masks must be worn in many areas.

Additional regional measures also apply.

What does the classification of Austria as a high-risk area and the lockdown mean for individual travelers?

In the


imposed by the Austrian government,

the hotels could not fulfill their contract, says Karolina Wojtal from the European Consumer Center (EVZ). Because the accommodation is prohibited by the authorities. The money paid must be paid back here without a cancellation fee being withheld.

If the lockdown is lifted again, individual travelers will

not have the right to free cancellation of their accommodation

from the continued possible classification of Austria as a

high-risk area


"If travel and accommodation are possible, even if it were under quarantine conditions, vacationers have to pay," says Wojtal.

The same applies to flight tickets: once the plane starts, travelers cannot simply have individually booked tickets reimbursed.

The whole thing is uncomplicated if holidaymakers have already booked accommodation with short-term, free cancellation options.

This is optionally offered on many travel and hotel portals or by hotels or holiday home renters themselves. It is worth paying attention to this with every booking in Corona times.

And for package holidaymakers?

During the


, the situation is pretty clear: travel will be severely affected. At the time of most of the bookings, this was probably not foreseeable. Only then did the situation worsen dramatically. The travel lawyer Paul Degott from Hanover sees this as an extraordinary circumstance - and thus the right to free cancellation as a given. Specifically, this means: "Travelers can declare their withdrawal with this corona development and are entitled to a refund of the travel price without any deductions."

In principle, the EVZ sees it the same way.

The considerable health risks alone should now be sufficient for Austria to declare the resignation, said Wojtal.

In addition, the lockdown and the associated severe restrictions on public and private life lead to an impairment of the trip - which in turn should justify the free resignation.

If the lockdown is lifted again and Austria continues to be


as a


area, the travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office will still apply.

In the time before Corona, such a warning was a clear indication of the existence of extraordinary circumstances.

This usually gave package holidaymakers the right to cancel free of charge.

But the situation is different today: "Whether after more than a year of pandemic there is still an exceptional circumstance when a country becomes a high-risk or virus variant area after booking has not yet been clarified by the highest court," says Wojtal.

Due to the unclear legal situation, the expert advises those affected who want to forego a trip to a high-risk area to seek an amicable agreement with their organizer.

Often providers are accommodating and allow, for example, free rebooking to other destinations or travel periods.

"The extent to which organizers also allow free cancellations is at their discretion."

Also important: the trip must be imminent anyway, i.e. a maximum of four weeks in the future.

Only then can it be relatively foreseen whether extraordinary circumstances will continue to exist when the traveler sets off on vacation.

"If the trip is further in the future, the normal cancellation fees will be charged to the traveler if he or she decides to withdraw now," explains Wojtal.

So it is better to wait.

Travelers who have booked a more expensive flex tariff have an advantage: They can usually rebook or cancel free of charge up to two weeks before the start of the trip - without giving a reason.

What applies to entry and return?

Of course, Austria's entry regulations still apply.

Holidaymakers should definitely be familiar with this information, which is available on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.

The Austrian Ministry of Health also provides information about the current measures.

When entering the country, a 2.5 G certificate is required from November 22nd - i.e. proof of vaccination, convalescence or a PCR test, the sample of which must have been taken no more than 72 hours ago.

There are exceptions for commuters and school-age children.

The classification as a high-risk area also results in certain requirements when returning to Germany.

Unvaccinated people have to be quarantined at home for ten days.

You can get rid of it with a negative test no earlier than five days after re-entry.

However, there is no such quarantine requirement for vaccinated and genesis patients.

In addition, all travelers must complete an entry form when returning home from a high-risk area.

This can be done online, but also on paper in an emergency.

Children under the age of twelve are exempt from this rule.

The same applies to holidaymakers who only drive through a high-risk area on the way home - for example Austria on the way from Croatia back to Germany.

abl / dpa

Source: spiegel

All business articles on 2021-11-25

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