South Tyrol is a land of passes and therefore a transit land in the heart of the Alps lying to the south of its main ridge a link between the central European and Mediterranean worlds. Its position as a trade intersection point equi-distant between Venice and Munich on a north- west-south-east axis and between Vienna and Genoa on a north-east-south-west axis made Bozen (Bolzano) early an important goods transhipment place.
But South Tyrol also lies at the climatic intersection point between the bracing north and the warm south. South Tyrol has therefore long been a meeting point for traders carriers pilgrims and keen travellers which has required the setting up of suitable accommodation.
Hundreds of years old are also the health resorts which have resulted in tourist establishments being set up for them particularly in the lower hills between Meran (Merano) and Salurn (Salorno). In addition dozens of baths throughout the Province - thermal springs and herbal baths - cater for a limited amount of tourism.
Tourism proper first began in the nineteenth century and took off impressively in 1867 with the opening of the Brenner railway and the linking of the Province with the European railway system. In Meran (Merano) Gries bei Bozen (Bolzano) Brixen (Bressanone) and Toblach (Dobbiaco) a high-quality recreational tourism was already flourishing towards the end of the century to which was added mountaineering with the opening up of the Alps. This golden age lasted until the outbreak of the First World War. Two world wars and a frontier change plunged the tourist trade as with many others into difficulties.
In the last decades tourism has become one of the most important pillars of the South Tyrol economy. In 1994 South Tyrol registered 24.8 million overnight stays by a total of 4 million holiday-makers of whom about 2.1 million (52 per cent) came from the Federal Republic of Germany and 1.4 million (about 36 per cent) came from the rest of Italy. Other important origins of tourism were Austria Switzerland and the Benelux countries. Total income from tourists staying overnight and day excursions and through travel came to about 3 000 billion lire in 1994. The average expenditure of winter visitors amounted to 128 000 lire and that of summer visitors to 100 000 lire per person per day.
South Tyrol possesses 4 620 hotels and guest-houses with 73 000 rooms and 147 000 beds. About 90 per cent of the rooms have their own bath or shower. 5 450 persons who rent out privately rooms and apartments offer further accommodation possibilities amounting to 47 250 beds. In addition three are Youth Hostels 32 holiday homes 37 mountain inns and 86 refuge huts as well as 35 camping sites. For sport and leisure the widest range of facilities are available throughout the Province: public open-air swimming pools in over 46 places 21 public indoor swimming pools 960 open-air hotel swimming pools 540 indoor hotel swimming pools 1100 hotel saunas 420 jacuzzis and 200 hotel tennis courts. 112 places in South Tyrol provide a total of over 400 tennis courts while in 13 places there are indoor or covered tennis courts. 44 places have mini-golf courses 10 have squash courts and there are also 43 riding stables. For winter sports there are about 430 lifts (316 ski lifts) with about 800 kilometres of ski pistes 1 800 kilometres of cross-country ski trails toboggan tracks (in 66 places) ski-schools (in 60 places) as well as 12 artificial ice-rinks (partly covered) and one artificial ice stadium.
To this positive development of South Tyrolese tourism the Province has made a significant contribution (the Province enjoys primary legislative power in regard to tourism). With Provincial Law n. 33 of 18 August 1992 the tourist bodies in South Tyrol were reorganised. Besides the province-wide organisation for promoting tourism Südtirol Tourismuswerbung (formerly the Provincial Tourist Bureau) there are separate local level tourist organisations (tourist administrative boards and offices and travel agencies) as well as area-level ones. All local tourist organisations have been amalgamated into the Landesverband der Tourismusorganisationen Südtirol (LTS) (Association of South Tyrolese Provincial Tourist Organisations). The Hotelier-und Gastwirteverband (Association of Hoteliers and Inn-keepers) is also organised at provincial level as is the Verband der Privatzimmervermieter Südtirols (Association of South Tyrolese Private Room Renters). South Tyrolese tourism is united in its efforts to improve the quality of what is on offer within the framework of an unspoilt scenic and cultural environment.