I thought it might be fun to review my whirlwind trip to Austria & Germany in the next few blogs with the above headlines in mind. Here are the stops I made:
The famous Lanserhof Health and Medical Centre in Austria
The New Schloss Elmau Luxury Resort and Cultural Hideaway in the German Alps
Klafs in Austria, the proud manufacturer of sauna, wellness and spa products
Toskanaworld, Bad Orb in Germany, a new spa with warm thermal salt water
The AHGZ German Wellness Conference I attended and at which I spoke
First stop Lanserhof located in a little community called Lans near Innsbruck.
I WAS IMPRESSED WITH… the famous Lanserhof program and especially its founder and visionary, Andreas Wieser. This successful property (that I would label a destination spa with medical components) has been around for 27 years. They require a minimum two week stay, and have had an impressive occupancy rate of over 95% for decades. The food I experienced at lunch was magnificent – and their new cookbook, Energy Cuisine, just came out.
Their mantra is “medicine of the future” and they describe themselves as Europe’s leading health center for regeneration and preventative medicine. I noticed some predictable offerings such as detox, movement therapies, executive health, sleep medicine, aesthetics, nutrition and such and then some novel terms such as Body Memory, Burn Out Program, Vital Aging, and Alzheimer Prevention.
I was impressed with how much time Andreas spent with me as he had just returned from a three week vacation hiking through the Alps by himself. While I would have probably been a crazy person getting back into work mode, here was someone clearly in a state of mindfulness. Andreas had remarkable vision when he started the Lanserhof program almost three decades ago, but he seems to have maintained his ability to think ahead – maybe even way ahead. His discussions regarding Body Memory, Fluid Dancing and Energy in general reminded me that he may be one of the most important visionaries in our industry – yet he is “understated” in his approach and manner so it isn’t as obvious. It was very helpful for me to spend some time getting to know him on this visit and at the subsequent Wellness Conference we both attended the next day. It gave me a better sense of his pulse on the future.
I WAS SURPRISED BY… Lanserhof’s stunning setting with picture-postcard-views of the Alps from almost every room! Did I miss this when I went to their website? I don’t remember seeing this in any of their brochures – in fact checking their main brochure I realized that most of their photos were taken on a cloudy day. A pity.
There are some spas where I get a clear picture in my mind of their setting because they have successfully used one fantastic image (sometimes with what looks like a bit of “color enhancement”) over and over again – in some cases for decades! Examples include: Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa with that turquoise pool in front of some very red rock (we even used it for the cover of one of our SpaFinder Directories), Six Senses Soneva Gili with a waiter appearing to walk on water between a pool and the brilliant color of the ocean water in the Maldives, or the natural rock cave of Grotta Giusti in Italy.
I really had no idea what to expect at Lanserhof so when I found a drop dead gorgeous view of the Alps as a major centerpiece, it was definitely a surprise.
I was also surprised (and thrilled actually) to learn that Andreas is going to be opening two more Lanserhof properties with a similar program in the next couple of years – one near Tegelsee that will be another destination spa and another near Hamburg that will be their first day spa. Interesting that this brand extension comes now…after 27 years. It reminds me that our 2011 SpaFinder Spa Trend forecast that included “The Spa Brandwagon” was really right on.
I was also surprised at how similar much of their program seemed to be to the many destination spas I am familiar with in the U.S. And then came an even greater surprise (although it explained the former one) – before Andreas opened Lanserhof all those years ago, he visited North America and stayed at the Golden Door, Canyon Ranch, Rancho La Puerta, The Oaks, the Cooper Clinic and the Greenhouse! It was heartening to know that he speaks of this fondly and with great gratitude for the hospitality and openness shown him while he was doing his research.
I HAVE SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR… the future based on my experience seeing the lifecycle of destination spas in the U.S. I remember the years when the destination spas Andreas visited also had very high occupancy rates. At that time they did almost no advertising. They lived off of PR which was plentiful back then. However the landscape began to change in the 80’s and 90’s as competition heated up with many new spas coming to market and people’s busy schedules shortening the time they would spend away at a spa. As a result, all the destination properties that had such high occupancy rates in the early years began to invest in advertising. The Greenhouse in Dallas even had to close.
With two new Lanserhof spas on the drawing board, it is likely that there will be some cannibalism of current guests from the established location at the same time the competitive landscape could increase. It is also more challenging to run three operations than it is to run one – and the day spa is an animal of a different kind from the destination spa. Planning to invest in a strategy for marketing and advertising now might be a good idea for the long term.
Another suggestion I have is a result of a funny moment that happened during my visit. I was getting ready to present Andreas with the award I had brought along that announced Lanserhof as this year’s SpaFinder Readers’ Choice Award for Favorite Spa in Austria. I asked him where would be the most picturesque spot for our photograph of me handing him the award’s plague. To my surprise, he didn’t know! It dawned on me that when you don’t do a lot of promotion or advertising, and have lived in these surroundings for so long, perhaps you aren’t even aware of the best photo opportunities at your property. So I looked out at the magnificent view and suggested, well how about we do a photo with the Alps in the background. Duh!