Naturresort PURADIES, Leogang, Austria: Clicking is the new clocking
Everything is changing, including the hotel industry. Two people who have experienced this process firsthand and helped shape it are Michael and Philipp Madreiter, brothers and Puradies hoteliers with a passion. Reasons enough to talk to them about the past, present and future of the industry.
Lifestylehotels: How has the hotel industry changed over the last few decades?
Philipp Madreiter: When I think of our business back then, everything has actually changed. There was no TV in the room and the toilet was in the hallway. That would be unimaginable today. If you like, vacations used to be more down-to-earth. Although the desire for relaxation has always remained the same. And guests enjoy the unobstructed mountain view today just as much as they did 30 years ago.
Michael Madreiter: We in Leogang in particular have made a huge step towards quality in recent decades. There is almost no hotel below four stars anymore. The businesses themselves have become much more professional become. In general, it must be said that this is also necessary because our guests naturally have much more travel experience than in the past. Thirty years ago, a vacation here in Leogang was often the only vacation. Many of our regular guests have spent their summer retreat as well as their winter vacation with us. “A lifetime in Leogang” was also the advertising slogan back then. Today, we travel around the world, both professionally and privately. Thus one “travels” completely new, other life and vacation experiences and thus also a new level at quality consciousness, because one knows from the own experience, how it can go differently and perhaps also better. You can’t compare tourism 30 years ago with tourism today at all. The knowledge from back then is of little help today. What does help, however, is not to forget where you come from. A special understanding of values and a sense of tradition are extremely important to us here in Puradies.
LH: Is digitalization also contributing to the change in the hotel industry?
MM: And how! Social media plays a big role there. It has completely changed the perception of the resort, of the hotel. And social media is not just social media. There has been a strong evolution in its use in recent years, and hardly any industry is experiencing a faster, stronger change. In the beginning, it was the “selfie mania” with “duck face” and co. After that, it was mainly about collecting moments and beautiful pictures. Today, it is becoming more relevant again that the shared moments have a certain meaning, i.e. are “meaningful”. For me, this is a very positive development. This is where we, as a family business, can score points with the Puradies experience. We find it easier to offer authentic, meaningful experiences because we are authentic per se, and we make it possible to have a vacation that goes beyond the standard vacation, is unique, and hopefully will be remembered by our guests for a long time.
LH: So you get away from “higher, faster, further” a little bit again?
MM: In some areas, yes. But not yet when it comes to wellness. There’s a real arms race going on in some areas that we neither want nor are able to keep up with. We are looking very closely at a healthy balance between necessary investment and sustainable environmental protection. So that we only take what we can give back on the other hand. Our farming origins naturally play a major role. This can also be seen in our new wellness area. I would even put it this way: “Spill is the new chunk”. Because it has already arrived in people’s minds that a large pool that steams in winter has nothing at all to do with sustainability.
PM: But of course we don’t want to and mustn’t stand still either. As a hotel business, you are comparable. But: Everything has to happen with measure and aim. That’s important to us.
LH: Don’t people generally want to return to their roots?
PM: Absolutely, which is why we are able to combine upscale hotel business with our farming business so well. We have 17 heifers, many pigs, sheep, dwarf goats, rabbits and organic chickens. We mow, make hay and spread manure ourselves. Our barn is not only a petting zoo, but a real, living agriculture. Of course, the guests also benefit from this.
MM: When it comes to the culinary arts, we also notice that locals as well as guests are going back to their roots, that regionally produced products and services are once again more appreciated, and that organically produced foods are taking on a special significance. Even conventional products in the supermarket are no longer “cheap”. And since it’s no longer just about the price, but also the megatrend “health” is coming into focus, people are starting to think about where food comes from. And whether you don’t just buy something where people you know are behind it. Our guests really appreciate that at least some of our products come from our own farm and that we strongly support regional producers and farmers.
LH: Will it then also become more important again that a house is not interchangeable, but retains its personality?
MM: I do hope that you can sense whether it’s a group-run or a family-run hotel that has a history, behind which are people who have been rooted in the place for generations. Our guests don’t just go to Puradies, they also go to the Madreiter family.
PM: In Leogang there are indeed exclusively family-run businesses. There is the family behind it everywhere and works with it. The family is more visible with some and less with others, but with us you have met at least one family member by the second day of your vacation at the latest. I still think that’s very important. And our guests also tell us back how much they appreciate this contact.
LH: What else will be important in the hotel industry of the future?
MM: Sustainability! We don’t want to be part of the problem, but rather contribute to solutions with ideas. For example, in the Corona era we considered how we could usefully process the products from our farm and launched our “Tilli’s und Wastl’s” product line. Under the brand there are fine things like goulash or sugo from organic beef, but also vegan delicacies like lentil stew. And that has worked out great. Even if digitization and perhaps also robotization are making strong inroads into the hotel industry – cordiality and hospitality are the decisive difference. Being a good host has always been and will always be important.
PM: We also have a large vegetable garden with 17 raised beds. Our mom is in charge here and grows seasonal vegetables. Around our chalets there are small gardens from which our guests can provide themselves with fresh herbs, strawberries, edible flowers and much more.
MM: All this is a first step. We are certainly on the right track. This is also confirmed by the Ecolabel, which we wear with pride. And we are in the community of Change Maker Hotels. That’s not just about sustainability, but also about fair treatment of employees. That’s important, too. In the future, we want to make the things we do even better, even more sustainable, even greener. We’ll keep at it. So that we all have a chance of a good, healthy future.