Austria is a dynamic EU member country with an affluent population of 8.4 million German speakers. Austria’s manageable size and stable business environment makes it an attractive market for U.S. exporters, as well as an attractive test market for U.S. firms with an eye toward expanding into neighboring Germany. Austria’s historical and economic ties to the strong growth markets of Eastern and Southeastern Europe also make it a logical base for serving those markets. Currently, 333 U.S. firms have subsidiaries, affiliates, franchisees, and licensees in Austria, of which about 220 have regional responsibilities for Central European, Eastern European, or Balkan countries. U.S. products and services maintain a good reputation in Austria.
Austria is currently at the end of an extraordinarily strong immigration-induced population growth phase. Since the mid-eighties, the population has grown by half a million inhabitants to the current 8.4 million, due to the unexpectedly high level of immigration. Since 1996, this dramatic increase in immigration has stabilized. The population will therefore only grow slightly in the coming decades. The Central Austrian Statistics Office estimates that in the year 2020, approximately 8.7 million people will be living in Austria – a 9.5 percent increase from 1996 levels. In 2030, almost 9 million people are expected to live in Austria. This constitutes an increase of 6.9 percent compared to today’s 2011 level. One of the major socio-political health challenges of the coming years is the rapid growth of the elderly population. The number of people over 60 years of age is currently approximately 1.8 million. This figure will have reached at least 2.8 million by the year 2030. At the present time, 20 percent of Austrians have reached retirement age, and it is projected that more than one third of the total population will be retired in the year 2021.
In 2010, Austrian imports of medical equipment were $1,865.3 million. We expect the 2011 imports, once published, to show an increase to $1,982.7 million. Total demand for medical devices in Austria added up to $1.2 billion, while exports of this equipment amounted to $1.8 billion. Austria is a transit-trade country with strong trade relationships with Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, as well as the Middle East. The re-exportation of products is quite common here; hence the volume of imports exceeds the total market. Taking into consideration these re-exports, imports are expected to increase at an average annual real growth rate of 3%. The Austrian size of the market for medical equipment should also increase about 3% annually over the next three years.
U.S. firms should plan their market entry very carefully. Given its location in the center of Europe and the size of its market, small enough to allow a quick overview, Austria stands out as a desirable, affluent pilot market for advanced U.S. products. The best strategy is to screen potential distributors and select a qualified local distributor. Austrian distributors are usually knowledgeable and experienced. They regularly call on hospitals, clinics, laboratories, and medical doctors with practices. The majority of distributors are fluent in English. They are also knowledgeable about EU approval procedures and will obtain approval for U.S. suppliers if needed.
The successful U.S. supplier should discuss and agree on a marketing strategy with a prospective distributor. Once the agent or distributor is selected, it is preferable to maintain this relationship for a number of years. Abrupt changes in distribution patterns distract users from trusted suppliers and have been detrimental to U.S. suppliers who have taken such action in the past. It may take up to two years to introduce a new product due to the conservative and complex nature of the Austrian market.
The metric system of weights and measures is standard in Austria. The electric power supply is 230/400 volt, AC 50, 1 or 3 phases.