Three questions for Andreas Züllig
The Host of the Hotel Schweizerhof and president of hotelleriesuisse, the Swiss Hotel Association in an interview.
#1 Some large hotel chains are establishing their own premium brands in order to appeal to specific types of customers. What do small and medium-sized hotels do to build up their brand?
Andreas Züllig: I think there needs to be a rough distinction here between city and holiday leisure hotels. There are only a handful of international brands that are involved in the latter. In this case the brand depends on the reputation of the establishment in question, particularly when it comes to the local market. In smaller hotels there is a certain level of cooperation to be found. You’re all together under a single brand, setting standards of quality and trying to run a unified marketing campaign while also selling your services. This is where I think small and medium-sized businesses in Switzerland in particular have fallen behind somewhat.
#2 The Hotel Schweizerhof is so successful because you marketed yourselves clearly as a family-friendly hotel. How did that come about?
Andreas Züllig: Having a clear position is crucial in the current business climate, whether you’re selling products or services, running a family hotel or a historic one. The Association supports its members in building their profiles. It does this by promoting a certified system of categorization according to criteria of specialisation, such as “green living” or “bike hotels”, and reviewing and developing these quality standards on a regular basis.
#3 Which topics are currently on the agenda for the Association’s hotel marketing day?
Andreas Züllig: The digital revolution is a major theme for the event. We have a duty to raise awareness amongst our members on what we have in store. In the digital market, your business proposition needs to be even more specialised. You have to ask which markets you want to operate in and which customers you want to appeal to. As the relevant trade association, we are keen to promote these ideas amongst our members and help them adapt.
Carving out a niche
In late 2006 the hoteliers Andreas and Claudia Züllig were ready to embark on a new venture. The Schweizerhof has been rated as a four-star superior hotel ever since, boasting the largest Turkish baths in the Alpine region. But superlatives alone are not enough to impress today’s discerning guests. Claudia Züllig-Landolt gives her take on what makes the Schweizerhof so successful: “The Schweizerhof works as a strong brand because we made sure to position ourselves clearly right from the start. When you come to stay at the Schweizerhof, you know exactly what to expect.” Since its renovation in 2006, the hotel has marketed itself as very family-friendly. This works because 70 % of their guests are families with children. Wellness enthusiasts also specifically choose the Schweizerhof, knowing that the 1500 square-metre spa – including the 450 square-metre Turkish baths – is a real highlight.
Unusual? A Turkish bath in the Alps
For the Turkish baths, the hotel accepted no compromises, commissioning the renowned architect Max Dudler with the project. The architecture he created is minimalist yet sensual – setting it far apart from typical spa architectural designs. Guests can escape to a dimly lit and mystical environment, leaving all of their troubles outside. That said, Max Dudler cannot take all of the credit. The colour scheme of the interiors, for example, was developed with artist Mayo Bucher – a personal friend of the Zülligs. To create an atmospheric feel, they used what are known as interference paints, which are applied in multiple coatings. Just like the surface of a pearl, the coating produces different light-reflection effects depending on where the light falls.
Change according to plan
The construction of the Turkish baths was the result of a rebranding effort by the Zülligs and their broader team. “We had numerous discussions on how a change in direction could work out for our hotel. It was at this stage that we built and defined our new business model – what we wanted for the future and how we were going to get it.” They also had to think carefully about what kind of gueststhey wanted, eventually deciding to clearly pitch their hotelto the Swiss market. “Today over 96 % of our guests are Swiss,” explains Claudia Züllig. Her husband Andreas Züllig is president of hotelleriesuisse, the Swiss Hotel Association, and is therefore the best person to tell us how the industry looks. “There is a noticeable trend towards greater market segmentation,” says Andreas, “and hotels are being more detailed in what they offer.” During the rebranding process, the team had to work together to figure out what was important: “The hotel staff, the guests, the quality standards, financial considerations, nature and the environment, or sustainability. These are values which to this day form a huge part of our philosophy,” adds Claudia Züllig.
When it comes to upholding these values, the team have not accepted a single compromise in all these years. That’s why, starting in 2014, they gradually fitted their in-house laundry facility with appliances from Miele. This includes four washing machines, two tumble dryers and an ironer. When the hotel is fully booked with around 200 guests, the machines will be running constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The laundry includes all of the tablecloths, staff uniforms and dressing gowns, as well as the peshtemal towels worn in the Turkish baths. During peak season, around 500 of these special towels are washed every single day. One advantage of having an in-house laundry facility is the more efficient use of staff workload. For example, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. – when most guests have left the hotel – staff can be stationed in the laundry facility for another two or three hours once the rooms have been made.
For further information go to: www.schweizerhof-lenzerheide.ch
Photos: Dolores Rupa
This article is part of our magazine "Welcome & Stay". You are welcome to download it. You can find this article on page 4-7.