Name: Hallstatt, Austria.
Age: Archaeology suggests the area has been settled for about 3,000 years.
Appearance: Like a fairytale alpine village, but rammed.
What’s the population? Only 778, but they get a lot of tourists.
Oh yeah? How many? Up to 10,000 a day.
That does seem a fairly extreme resident-to-visitor ratio. It’s six times the number of tourists per capita that Venice gets.
Certainly a lot for a place I’ve never heard of. What has Hallstatt got going for it? Even for a Unesco world heritage site, it’s remarkably picturesque, nestled beside a beautiful lake under the steep slopes of the Dachstein massif. And it’s only about an hour’s drive from Salzburg, or three and a half hours from Vienna by train.
Sounds nice, but I think I’ll pass. Your lack of enthusiasm is very 2010. Back then, Hallstatt was attracting just 100 visitors a day.
What happened? First it appeared on a South Korean TV show. Then, in 2011, a Chinese mining tycoon spent £700m building an exact replica of the village in the south-eastern province of Guangdong.
And that fuelled interest in the real thing? Yep. Also, rumours spread that Hallstatt was the inspiration for the village of Arendelle in the Disney film Frozen.
You mean people are travelling thousands of miles to visit the alleged setting for a kids’ movie? Yes, largely from China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.
What do they do when they get there? They try to find a place to take an uncrowded selfie – to no avail – and then they leave.
I’m guessing this influx is a bit of a mixed blessing for the good people of Hallstatt. You got that right. On the one hand, the town is financially independent and well able to fund local amenities including schools and a concert hall. Once-seasonal businesses can now stay open all year.
And on the other hand? They are overrun. They have a litter problem, not to mention a drone problem. Prices have sky-rocketed. Locals feel as though they are living in a theme park. In November, a fire destroyed a large chunk of the waterfront, yet still the tourists came.
Is there a solution? The mayor is looking at ways to reduce the number of tourist buses – 20,000 a year – by a third, but there are limits to what can be done legally. You can’t just stop people turning up.
He should just tell the tourists to Let it Go. I’m sure he would, if the village wasn’t charging them €1 each just to use the toilets.
Do say: “Elsa doesn’t live here any more.”
Don’t say: “I’ve been to both, and the one in Guangdong has better food.”
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