Hallstatt resident Friedrich Idam, 62, said residents felt the need to protest against this “avalanche” of mass tourism.
“Hallstatt no longer lives on tourism, it is being squashed by overcrowding,” he said.
This Alpine idyll is just one of many overcrowded, photogenic sites across Europe where tensions between residents and tourists have risen to a boiling point.
“There is always an assumption that this only happens in Venice or Barcelona, but it’s not the case, you will see this around the world,” said Xavier Font, an expert on tourism and sustainability at the University of Surrey in southwest England.
“This group of people in Austria have just become organized and are saying ‘enough.’ And they are right to say it. In some parts of the world, people are poor and have to put up with it.”
Hallstatt was featured on a Korean television show in 2006, triggering a wave of hype on social media. Town officials said that tourists from 87 nations had been registered as visitors this year so far, including many from the United States.
U.S. tourists tend to stay overnight, while others are more likely to visit on a day trip, residents said.
As for the supposed links to Disney’s “Frozen,” despite the valley’s uncanny resemblance to the scenery in the movie, the filmmakers said they modeled their fictional kingdom on Norway. Its plot is based on “The Snow Queen,” by Danish fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen.
The picturesque town had become so popular among Chinese tourists that a Chinese company built a full-size replica of the Austrian town in faraway Guangdong Province in 2012, reportedly costing $940 million.
However, the Hallstatt tourism board says on its English-language website: “But only in the original will you discover this truly unique culture with such a history all in a breath-taking mountain setting.” It’s an invitation to foreign visitors who local officials are now trying to restrict.
After tour operators were forced to book dedicated slots before arriving with tourist buses, activists are now also calling for a limit on the numbers of private vehicles and tourists per day.