It’s not easy being one of the most “Instagrammable towns in the world.”
The tiny picturesque mountain hamlet of Hallstatt, Austria – located about an hour southeast of Salzburg – is struggling to cope with the influx of a million “Frozen” and “Frozen 2” movie fans a year, who heard it was the inspiration for the fictional village of Arendelle.
Fans of the animated Disney franchise have been coming since the first movie premiered in 2013, but the release of the sequel in November 2019 caused another surge.
After 19,300 tour buses visited Hallstatt last year, Mayor Alexander Scheutz told The Times of London he hopes to cut that number by at least a third in 2020. But in reality, he admitted, “we have no way of actually stopping them.”
At first, the tourist boom was a boon to the town, which lies between Lake Hallstatt and the Dachstein massif (mountain group) and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997. Local businesses that were once only open during the spring and summer were able to operate year-round.
“The advantages are that we have become financially independent,” Scheutz told the British magazine Far Out in September 2019. “We used to be a place that people left. We couldn’t balance our budget but now, that’s changed. Now we can develop our own projects and offer a lot to our population.”
But dealing with up to 10,000 tourists a day – many from Asia, who saw the town on a popular South Korean TV show set there – has become too much for the residents of Hallstatt.
“It’s a catastrophe,” Hallstatt innkeeper Verena Lobisser told The Washington Post last year. “Many visitors seriously think this is a theme park.”
Scheutz wishes to remind visitors that “Hallstatt is an important piece of cultural history, not a museum,” he told The Times of his village, a salt-mining town that dates back to the Middle Bronze Age (as far back as 1200 BC).
The town is so popular with Asian tourists that a Chinese billionaire spent an estimated $940 million building an exact replica in the southern province of Guangdong, not exactly known for its Alpine climate. It opened in 2012.