the project Flying Mozart in Snow Space Salzburg had to be postponed.

Planning cable cars in the crisis

Cable car engineer Stephan Salzmann in an interview with SI on projects, strategies and prospects for the cable car industry.

SI: To what extent is the corona crisis harming you?


Stephan Salzmann: Some projects have been postponed, e.g. the large-scale Flying Mozart project. The very large projects in particular can be started only once the relevant circumstances mean that completion can be expected. That is definitively not the case at present. Projects on which construction will begin in June/July are currently still on track.


This year, we will also be able to complete the projects that we began last year, although the date for the resumption of construction work has already been delayed by up to 6 weeks.


On certain future projects, planning has also been halted temporarily. However, work has mostly been able to continue again after a short shock-induced paralysis in mid-March.

What are you doing with your employees?


A number of our employees have worked from home in the past. We have aligned our infrastructure to this – all employees work on a laptop, even on CAD. On Friday 13.03., it was therefore easy to move all employees to work from home.


In the meantime, we have found various solutions individually. Those who can simply come into the office and have no special precautions as a result of contact with high-risk groups are back in the office, although we are complying with the statutory requirements concerning distance and disinfection. The rest are working from home.


How are operations configured for you?


We have been continuously at full capacity. Business trips are still being avoided entirely at present. Communication both among ourselves and with external project partners takes place largely by video conference at the moment, in addition to e-mail. After certain initial difficulties with some project partners, this is working surprisingly well and the question I ask myself is whether, even after the crisis is over, personal attendance at every meeting is really necessary. In the long term here, perhaps we will manage to handle a certain proportion of meetings by video conference and therefore to save time, money and resources.

Cable car planner Stephan Salzmann. Photo: SI/Surrer

How do you see the future?


Honestly: with mixed feelings. If we are seeing the worst economic crisis since the 30s, according to the IMF, that cannot pass us by untouched. In previous crises – e.g. such as the financial crisis in 2008 – tourism has proved to be crisis-resistant.


With the present travel restrictions and the expected loss of income among guests, the tourist sector will certainly have to prepare for declining sales. For most cable car operators, summer 2020 is not so relevant in terms of result. If travel freedom is still restricted in winter 2020/21, that could become critical for cable cars.


Public perception of the role of various Austrian ski destinations in spreading the Covid-19 virus may also play a role, although it does not have to.


On the other hand, it may also be good that people in central Europe will definitely want to go on holiday after the travel restrictions end and this may be possible only in the local area. This factor would certainly strengthen Alpine destinations in the summer and the winter.


I think, after the crisis is over, many things will no longer be as they were previously. Whether they will be better or worse is partly dependent on us.


Which strategies are you pursuing?


We are in a good position here. Our philosophy of creating maximum impact through targeted and efficient measures naturally also fits very well with a time in which much is indeed necessary but not everything is still financially possible.


To what extent does politics need to support you?


Whether the Austrian federal government has chosen the right strategy with the very tough measures will become clear after the crisis. As far as containing the infection is concerned, it seems to have been the right approach.


Together, we will all have to pay for the obvious damage to the economy. After some delay, the governments of our German-speaking neighbours have also pursued similar strategies, so the situation will be similar here. For now at least, it is important that help is provided to those who have been deprived of the basis of their business.


For ourselves, we have no need at present for support through short-time working or similar and we hope that will remain the case. It is therefore all the more important for us that our customers, who are among the main victims, receive comprehensive assistance.


With respect to compensation, there are doubtless hard negotiations to come here with the state institutions under the epidemics act and I hope that the loss of earnings as a result of the shutdown will be compensated appropriately.