Friedrich Idam, 62, a resident of Hallstatt, said residents felt the need to protest against this “avalanche” of mass tourism.
“Hallstatt no longer lives off tourism, it’s crushed by overcrowding,” he said.
This alpine idyll is just one of many crowded and photogenic sites across Europe where tensions between residents and tourists have reached a boiling point.
“We always assume it only happens in Venice or Barcelona, but it’s not, you’ll see it all over the world,” said Xavier Font, tourism and sustainability expert at the University of Surrey, in the South West of England.
“This group of people in Austria just got organized and said ‘enough’. And they are right to say that. In some parts of the world people are poor and have to put up with it.”
Hallstatt was featured on a Korean TV show in 2006, sparking a wave of social media hype. City officials said tourists from 87 countries have been registered as visitors this year so far, including many from the United States.
American tourists tend to stay overnight, while others are more likely to take a day trip, locals said.
As for supposed ties to Disney’s “Frozen,” despite the valley’s uncanny resemblance to the film’s landscape, the filmmakers said they modeled their fictional kingdom on Norway. Its plot is based on “The Snow Queen”, from the Danish fairy tale Hans Christian Andersen.
The scenic town had become so popular among Chinese tourists that a Chinese company built a full-scale replica of the Austrian city in remote Guangdong province in 2012, at an estimated cost of $940 million.
However, Hallstatt Tourist Board states on its English language website: “But only in the original will you experience this truly unique culture with such history, all in a breathtaking mountain setting. .” This is an invitation to foreign visitors that local authorities are now trying to restrict.
After tour operators were forced to book dedicated time slots before arriving with tourist buses, campaigners are now also calling for a limit on the number of private vehicles and tourists per day.