The small scenic village of Hallstatt, located in Austria’s Salzkammergut region, has enjoyed a spike in popularity over the last decade, popular movies and TV series leading to an increased number of visitors to the quiet town.
Although tourism had proven an economic boost, the around 800 locals have had enough of the large, loud, disrupting groups of tourism. In their latest attempt to draw attention to the issue of overtourism, on Sunday, 27 August, residents took to the streets, blocking the tunnel and main road leading to the entrance of the town.
Access to Hallstatt was thus blocked for about 15 minutes, according to Austrian newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten. Around 100 locals gathered in the tunnel with banners and posters reading “Now an emergency brake. Or we will be run over”; “Think of our children” and “Radical frontiers for mass tourism”.
The mayor of the Hallstatt had previously promised to reduce the number of tour buses coming into the town, but the problem of overtourism persists. The residents are asking for the daily number of tourists to be capped, as well as for a curfew for tour buses, which residents ask to not be allowed into town after 5 pm.
In 2010, the average number of tourists Hallstatt was getting per day was only 100. However, being the shooting location for part of the popular Korean TV drama series “Spring Waltz” and being rumoured to be the inspiration for the fairytale kingdom of Arendelle in Disney’s “Frozen” film series, just before the pandemic, the village was getting as many as 10,000 visitors per say during peak season.
In May 2023, the town erected a wooden wall in an attempt to deter tourists from blocking the streets while stopping to take selfies. “We reacted to the complaints of the local residents”, an official of the municipality told AFP at the time. The barrier has since been removed, but it was erected in the hope that tourists would no longer flock to one of the most popular places to take selfies, generating noise pollution because of the subsequent traffic.
Mayor Alexander Scheutz explained at the time that, Hallstatt, which is inscribed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage, “is an important piece of cultural history, not a museum”, adding that they wanted to reduce the number of tour busses passing through the town, amounting to 20,000 per year, by a third, but unfortunately disclosed there was “no way of actually stopping them”.