The president of the Salzburg Festival is annoyed. Deafening firecrackers echo through the historic city center around the festival hall. “Such a thing in times of terrorism fears!” Helga Rabl-Stadler says.
The Austrian city of 150,000 is bursting at the seams in the midst of the 41-day music and drama festival, considered to be among Europe’s most important annual cultural events. Crowds push their way down the narrow streets flanked by expensive shops, and traffic slows to an agonizing pace through the labyrinthine old town. Finding a last-minute hotel room is almost impossible.
But the crowds are too much for some locals, who fear the city may become a terrorist target. “I only go into the city if there is no other option,” says one resident.
These crowds who come for the city’s opera, music and theater productions are the fuel that keep the picturesque city’s tourism business booming, though. This past weekend, the Salzburg Chamber of Commerce released an economic impact study that analyzed data from more than 3,000 festival visitors. The study found that the festival brings in €215 million ($243 million) to Austria each year, creates some 3,400 jobs and contributes to €77 million in taxes to the state coffers.