So why have we chosen the last week of July to make such an event? Why not in June, when school- and university- students and politicians are still in the city? Precisely because we love that late summer, dreamy feeling, and find that the space and time available in the warmer days is something special. Why is it that people stop thinking in summer, preferring trashy novels, films and sport? It is worth remembering that there is no day in the year when fewer than half of residents are here, so we should provide entertainment and a chance to connect with others in summer, when the city looks and feels its best. Less focus on June and September, and more on July and August. It is bad for the economy if people earn money here, and then spend it in Semmering (or indeed in Jesolo). It is also bad for the social and ecological life of our city, that people are missing from the city, and use so much energy to travel to other places far away. Vienna is now a 4.5 days a week city, and a 10 months per year city, but should aim to be a 7-day and 12-month, full-time urban Metropolis. Exploring the city is much more fun in summer than winter.
A second element of our week of events, apart from #TourismForLocals, is why we should all walk more. Exploring the city on foot is often neglected by residents, but once we go on holiday, people will often enjoy walking all day, around a new city or up a mountain. Why is it that we enjoy walking only when away from home? Maybe because it is so easy in Vienna, that we just don’t notice we are doing it? Or that it is free, and therefore undervalued? It is certainly not boring, with so much to look at in our beautiful city. We will show what walking means, for mental health, for building community, for physical health, for the ecological health of the planet, and also, less well-known, for developing creative ideas and supporting the local economy. Or are we all too busy and stressed to walk?
Let’s look at a few reasons why people choose not to walk – they see it as slow, unhealthy, or that the weather is a problem. If you check an app, Vienna is a dense city and you can walk right across it in around 4 hours. Most distances can comfortably be covered on foot, but more importantly, walking is a way to prepare for meetings, develop ideas or solve problems. Once you see it as a way to work more creatively – that walking is working – then walking is not the slowest way through the city, but the most productive. Walking is far from unhealthy. Car drivers face much more pollution than walkers, since we know shorter ways through the city, far away from angry traffic. It refreshes your head, and brings both air into your lungs, and blood circulating around your brain. Which produces more ideas. And it is the most social way to get between meetings, or to university.
And we are going to hit the city hard this July! Those of you who join us for all 14 walks will cover more than 120km, and really belong to the city like nobody else in summer 2020. The only four Districts we will not be visiting are Meidling, Hietzing, Hernals and Währing. We will cover those four next year, we promise.
The title Walking Week riffs on working week, the concept of Monday-Friday, and we try to replace that with something more fun, colourful and wild. We will show you the city from new angles, & get lots of local people – all different kinds of residents – to join us on our adventures. Plus some visitors and media. Most events are auf Deutsch, to reach the maximum audience, but a few will be in English, to add the exotic, including an English lesson as walk, for students, children, and others.
The City of Vienna has a new tourism strategy, which will focus less on the number of people who come to visit us, but the value each one brings to the city. So Vienna will not attract any more budget airlines, or promote itself at mass tourism events, place new restrictions on Airbnb and generally promote itself more with culture than parties.
71 million people landed or took off from Wien Schwechat airport in 2019. This is a catastrophic number, in a city of just 1.9 million residents. It is decadent and completely unsustainable. We must change our lifestyle dramatically. Tourism is responsible for 5% of global CO2 emissions (hotels, cruise ships, rental cars, buses, planes) and that number is growing fast. Unlike food or clothing, travel is not a basic right we all need. Can we re-think the concept? Coronavirus would not have spread around the world so fast without intercontinental air travel. Visitors seek experiences which are authentic, local and unique. Surely the Viennese can also enjoy all of these features?
We encourage you to take that week off work, and join us in a new exploration of our exotic hometown. You will save a lot of money, live a more ecological summer holiday, have many more relevant stories to tell friends when you return to work, and best of all, know your city much better than before. This is an experiment, and as some of you know, Wien is not the easiest town to launch new projects – the people are not always looking for the latest hype and innovation. So we appreciate any help you can offer in spreading news about this exciting new event. Please tell your friends and colleagues who might enjoy this summer adventure. We will bring an engaged group of Viennese together in discussion, exploration and joy.
Geh Bitte! #TourismForLocals