Austria’s scintillating Conchita Wurst, winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, is helping boost tourism to Vienna. She chatted to travel media yesterday on the eve of performing tonight at the Sydney Opera House as part of this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
As well as being a top performer and something of a gay icon, Conchita is happy to talk about her passion for Vienna and discuss latest developments in Austria’s capital city.
What’s the best time to visit Vienna? “It really doesn’t matter,” says Conchita, “but I would recommend winter. Though you Australians call it winter when it’s like 6 degrees.”
That’s mild for winter in Austria.
Director of the Austrian National Tourist Office in Sydney, Astrid Mulholland-Licht, has seen rehearsal for Conchita’s show, ‘Conchita: From Vienna with Love’, in which she will perform with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and singers Trevor Ashley, Paul Capsis and Courtney Act.
“I can’t wait for this show!” Mulholland-Licht said, adding that while Vienna was famous for Mozart, Mahler and Hayden, all of them dead composers, “it’s much more fun working with Conchita”.
Vienna’s reputation for grand museums, music, art and coffee houses is well established, but Conchita – the alter ego of 27-year-old singer Thomas Neuwirth – conveys the message of new Vienna: modern, different and cutting-edge; full of students, with top nightlife, lots of little galleries and bars, a gay scene and a contemporary vibe.
Austria is notching up record growth from Australia of 11% year-on-year, Mulholland-Licht said – and growth soared to 22% from Australia last May, the month when the 60th Eurovision Song Contest was held in Vienna, the first time Austria hosted it since 1967.
While culinary experts at the Hotel InterContinental Sydney prepared an Austrian desert, media relations manager of the Vienna Tourist Board, Helena Hartlauer, said that in the past couple of weeks, Vienna had once against been named the world’s most liveable city. The result, deriving from the annual global survey conducted by international consulting group Mercer, marks the seventh consecutive year Vienna has won.
Each year, the international consultancy conducts a quality-of-life survey in 230 major towns and cities worldwide. Criteria include the political, social and economic climate, medical services, education and infrastructure facilities including public transportation, power and water utilities.
Leisure facilities such as restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports facilities, availability of consumer goods ranging from food to automobiles, and environmental factors including green space and air quality are also taken into consideration.
All of that translates into a fantastic city for tourists to visit and explore. Vienna, with a population of 1.8 million, was visited by 6.2 million tourists in 2014 and more last year.
The city is growing, with a new train station and new neighbourhood around it, complete with new hotels.
With all its grand architecture and monuments, Vienna is a young, vibrant city. More students live in Vienna that any other German-speaking city, Hartlauer said. It even has more students than Berlin. There’s plenty of classical music if you seek it, but all sorts of other music as well; house music, techno music, you name it. Plus, of course, a gay and lesbian scene – hardly surprising in a city that has seen gay composers, gay emperors and gay generals.
Written by Peter Needham