Michaela Reitterer of Boutiquehotel Stadthalle in Vienna, in this interview tells us why her award-winning hotel focuses on sustainability, and how this commitment is paying off.
- Why Michaela Reitterer decided to make Hotel Stadthalle as sustainable as possible;
- How, together with her team, she has managed to achieve high levels of hotel sustainability;
- How guests and competitors react to sustainability initiatives;
- The growing trend of short nature breaks.
Michaela, you are the President of the Austrian Hotelier Association and operate the most sustainable hotel in Vienna. You have received numerous awards, including the Austrian Climate Protection Prize and the Environmental Prize of the City of Vienna. What made you decide to operate your hotel sustainably?
To be entirely honest, there was no way around for me to build a house that generates as much energy as possible. Energy costs are a real factor in the hotel industry in Austria. But it has also to do with the expectations of our guests, our enjoyment of innovation – and wanting to make use of the latest developments, which is especially exciting.
What have you done and will you continue to do to make the hotel sustainable?
In our “Passiv Haus” part of the hotel we produce as much energy as we need during the year. The breakfast and all drinks and cakes are of certified, organic quality.
We motivate our guests to save energy and to participate in the project Zero Waste.
We are also a very family friendly business and try to fulfill all requests, to contribute to a great balance between work and family.
At Hotel Stadthalle there is equal pay for the same job, no matter if man or woman. We train many young people conscientiously and take part in a lot of charitable projects.
We grow our own herbs and harvest our lavender from the lavender roof, which we use and sell. We have 6 bee colonies that provide the annual amount of honey needed for the hotel, and we offer all guests who are traveling to us by train, bicycle or electric car a 10% discount on their room rate.
What do your guests say about this concept and which guest type books your accommodation?
Our guests live consciously at home and do not want to miss out when on holiday. As we are close to the Stadthalle, Vienna’s largest event location, a lot of our guests come because of their concert visit and then realize our attitude to sustainability. Here we often create this “Wow” effect and inspire them. We have old and young, hip and traditional, fans of organic food or friends of a green oasis in the middle of the city: simply a wide range of guest profiles, who are united in their enthusiasm of our house, and above all my great team.
To what extent does the focus on sustainability affect your costs and accommodation rates? Did you find that higher prices deter guests?
In Austria we have the saying that what costs little is worth little. We are not much more expensive than other hotels, but we never try to attract guests through price dumping or last-minute actions. That’s not sustainable and is short-sighted, which doesn’t suit us.
What do competitors say about your commitment?
As far as I know, they are pleased and find it great. But I also have to say that I would like to have more hotels in Vienna and Austria that are committed to sustainability. Then I would not have to pull the marketing cart alone!
Are you largely alone with your involvement or is there a trend towards more sustainable action in Austrian hotels?
There are some awesome colleagues in the Austrian and German hospitality business who are really great in sustainability. They are all member of the Sleep Green Hotels. Many have subscribed to offering regional produce and work with local farmers. I think this is especially important and it is also a USP of the Austrian hotel industry – the quality in the hospitality, and the food and drinks.
As President of the Austrian Hotel Association, you have direct contact with colleagues and competitors. Do you see this as an advantage to make sustainable action in the industry more attractive?
Yes, of course, and it is also very important to me. But it is also important not to preach to and judge colleagues, pointing fingers at them. Rather, I try to motivate and convince them by walking the talk.
But you also have to be able to afford and want sustainable business management, and here it will take a while for everyone to realize that ultimately it will be the cheaper form of entrepreneurship.
What would be the necessary condition for the entire tourism industry to switch to sustainability? Do you think this will happen in the foreseeable future?
Here you have to be careful with the word, because sustainability means something different for everyone.
I believe in the renaissance of summer retreats and that it will again be considered fashionable to spend (short) holidays in Austria. This is a trend that we are increasingly aware of, and even for our most important target markets, a summer holiday in the mountains, on crystal-clear lakes and in dreamy little villages is becoming increasingly popular.
Back to nature is important to all of us. The hotel industry has the potential to not only offer this to the guests, but perhaps also to inspire them.
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