Austria ranks high among European tourist countries. It has a year-round tourist season: in winter, tourists come to the famous skiing resorts and attend outstanding musical events in Vienna; in summer, visitors are attracted by scenery, sports, and cultural festivals, notably in Vienna and Salzburg. Of the 4,000 communities in Austria, nearly half are considered tourist centers.
Tourist attractions in the capital include 15 state theaters and the Vienna State Opera (which also houses the Vienna Philharmonic); the Vienna Boys' Choir; St. Stephen's Cathedral; the Schönbrunn and Belvedere palaces; and the Spanish Riding Academy, with its famous Lippizaner stallions. Just beyond the city boundary are the Vienna Woods, with their picturesque wine taverns.
About 40 or 50 towns and villages qualify as major resorts for Alpine skiing, and Innsbruck has been the site of two Winter Olympics, in 1964 and 1976. Mountaineering is another Austrian specialty, with Austrian climbers having scaled high peaks all over the world. Austrians have frequently taken titles in world canoeing championships. Soccer is a very popular sport. Austria also puts on a number of prominent annual events for cyclists. Probably the most challenging tour on the amateurs' program is the "Tour d'Autriche," which has been held every year since 1949. This race through Austria's mountains covers a total distance of almost 1,500 kilometers. Motor racing, motorcycle racing and speedway racing are also extremely popular sports in Austria.
Foreign tourist traffic is the leading single source of foreign exchange, and tourism is a major contributor to the Austrian economy. An estimated 17,982,000 foreign visitors arrived in Austria in 2000. Receipts from tourism amounted to US $10 billion. That year there were 304,928 rooms in hotels, inns, and pensions with 642,623 beds and a 35% occupancy rate.
Visitors entering Austria for a short stay need only a valid passport if from the US or Western European countries, but an Austrian visa is required for visits exceeding three months.
In 2002, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Austria at about $176 to $206.