Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro, Vienna:
Austria′s Big Travel Agency & Secession Neighbour
The Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro is a travel agency and the biggest of its kind in Austria. Most Austrians associate with the name (which means "Austrian Traffic Bureau") with a building on the Karlsplatz, just at the onset of the Naschmarkt and facing the Secession building: It is this building that served as the headquarter of the company for nearly a century until it was sold to one of Austria′s biggest gambling and casino companies. The Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro building is nevertheless still a very prominent feature on the border between Wiental and Karlsplatz. Therefore, I thought that it deserves its own article.
Let me start with a few general words on the Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro: It is not only the biggest, but also the oldest travel agent in Austria. Traditionally, it was divided into travel, hotels and gastronomy - at least until 2007, when the last branch of the company was sold. The Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro does not operate excessively under its own brand name - however, it runs several of the best-known travel agencies in the country and in 2005, it made an annual revenue of 807 million Euros. The Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro was founded in 1917 in Vienna and initially, all it did was working on the development of a ticket system for the Austrian National Railways.
Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro after WWI
By 1921, it had not only survived the collapse of the Empire, but did actually really well: It distributed 3.7 million tickets and started to sell insurance deals for luggage. In addition, the Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro discovered the highly lucrative trades with cash exchange, traveller′s cheques and travel literature (the offline ancestor of TourMyCountry.com in a way). As a public company, all assets were used for the support of Austrian tourism infrastructure. Here we go, another reason why it is worth looking at this company: The development of the tourism business especially after the First World War and then again after the Second World War with the skiing industry contributed tremendously to the wealth of the nation.
Soon, the Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro started to sell tickets for ships and airplanes, organised scheduled flights to Vienna, published a travel magazine. In a joint-venture with the National Mail, it launched a bus service in the then rural Salzkammergut and in the Gasteinertal Valley. Organised bus trips and guided tours followed, ships were purchased and busses chartered. Despite of the generally difficult situation of the Austrian economy at those days, the Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro managed to open a representative headquarter facing the Secession in 1923.
Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro from 1930 until Today
After 1930, the golden times ended - at least for the time being. The World Economic Crisis of the late 1920ies spoilt people′s appetite on travel; in 1933, Nazi-Germany charged Germans to travel to Austria a tax of 1,000 marks - equalling approximately 10,000 Euros in today′s money. This was a step in an economic war that - needless to say - extinguished essentially all tourism from Germany. This tax was being charged until 1936.
After the Anschluss in 1938, the Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro was dissolved and its facilities were included into a different travel agency. Only a few months after the end of World War II, the Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro was re-opened. In the following years, it rose back to former glory and co-founded the first Austrian national airline. The Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro also extended its sphere of interest beyond Europe and started to organise overseas travel. In 1995, the company bought a significant amount of shares from the DDSG, the most important Danube shipping company. Until today, the Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro is highly successful, even though this is often done from "behind the scenes".
In 2007, the 1923 building and former headquarter was sold to the gambling company Novomatics, which renovated the facilities. Attractions nearby include Naschmarkt, Secession, Wiener Musikverein, Künsterhaus, Technische Universität, Theater an der Wien, Karlskirche and Wien Museum as well as the Akademie der Bildenden Künste.
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