The Russians are coming to the Oetztal. Well, in reality this rugged corner of Austria’s Tirol has been popular for quite a while with those from Russia – bars in Soelden displaying Cyrillic script would appear to be an accurate barometer to suggest as such. Often tolerated rather than adored in the likes of St. Anton am Arlberg, its free-spending travellers have recently had their wings clipped since sanctions levied against the Putin regime made foreign travel a luxury many could no longer afford.

Already the owners of several hotels in the Oetztal including Obergurgl’s incongruously designed Josl, €17 million has recently been spent on purchasing the Hochsoleden-based Alpenhotel Enzian – taking Russian interest in the area to over 550 beds across its five-property portfolio. There is a strong possibility that such a foothold could grant the owners a greater say in future Oetztal tourism policy, although they would be just one of fifteen stakeholders entitled to voting privileges.

So far Russian ownership of a modest slice of tourist beds in the Oetztal region has been met with few complaints of what has proven to be professional stewardship of their holiday properties. Baseless fears of hotels becoming the preserve of their owners’ compatriots have helped neutralize indigenous opinions; the overarching concerns for Oetztal Tourism that Russian-owned hotels be run efficiently and contribute positively to the overall ‘offer’ have been completely assuaged.

Whilst nobody in the Oetztal would want to see an avalanche of hotels falling into foreign hands, the dominance of the area and its tourism provision by a handful of prominent families who’ve maintained and grown their businesses over many generations makes this outside influence little more than an interesting footnote to the region’s overwhelmingly Austrian identity. In reality it hasn’t, as of yet, caused anything other than a relatively insignificant ripple.

Source material courtesy of Tiroler Tageszeitung(21st December 2016) – tt.com