Managing Director Peter Prisching remembers...
On the occasion of the hotel's 20th anniversary, we asked Managing Director Peter Prisching for an interview. Over old photos and a cup of coffee, many memories resurfaced. And as luck would have it, it came to a joyful reunion with regular guests of the first hour. Learn here the story around the creation of one of the largest leading companies in the region, the AVITA Resort.
On October 26, 1995, the Burgenland Therme was opened. How did the idea of connecting a hotel come about later?
Essentially, there were three factors that were decisive for the idea or implementation: On the one hand, to meet the existing demand for a spa wellness hotel with direct access to the – at that time still Burgenland Therme. There were also expressions of interest and inquiries from outside investors. Then the thought was, “We can do that ourselves!”
On the other hand, to ensure an even better basic occupancy rate by hotel guests for the Burgenland-Therme, the economic aspect was of course a major factor.
And further to achieve a significant quality expansion in the wellness and sauna area.
Was this strategy well received from the start?
Around 30 percent of the financing came from the own funds of our limited partners, 67 in number at the time (note: as of today: 130). And so there was an almost two-year period of preparation with intensive talks before the green light was also given by the investors. EU funding accounted for 30 percent of the total, while the remaining 40 percent was made up of borrowed capital.
In the village, too, a certain maturation process was necessary for this project in order to understand that the AVITA Hotel does not represent competition to the local businesses, but is to be seen as a meaningful addition. The supply gap between hotels & guesthouses in the 3-star category and the 5-star hotels has thus been closed.
Every investment we have made has always been beneficial to Bad Tatzmannsdorf, which is particularly close to my heart. My motto even then was, “Our tomorrow will be different if we change today!”
What was the concept behind the AVITA Hotel?
At that time we decided against a 5 star and consciously for a 4* superior house to be able to surprise the guest even more with the high quality. People have always been at the forefront of all endeavors, because “atmosphere cannot be built.” The pillars “wellness, health and sports” are for us then as now identification factor.
At that time, we were also still pursuing a three-brand strategy, i.e. on the one hand there was the Burgenland Therme, on the other the AVITA Hotel as well as an externally managed spa area, the “Beauty by Berghofer”.
What few people know is that before the decision was made on the name “AVITA”, “Maxwell” was still on the table as a suggestion.
Which architect was commissioned for this important project? How did the decision-making process come about?
After the elaboration of a precise profile of requirements, an architectural competition was held for the construction of the hotel with a direct connection to the thermal spa. The Tyrolean architect Karl Landauer clearly prevailed here.
He was not an unknown face for me, there was already a first acquaintance together with the then Co-Managing Director Michaela Resetar. At a seminar in Dobbiaco, he was a speaker on the subject of “Hotel dreams of the future”, which impressed us very much at the time.
Can you tell us something about the specifics of the architecture?
For me, our house radiates warmth and generosity, both in the way it is built and in its design. Many of our guests appreciate it very much that it never seems “crowded” here and you always have enough free space for yourself. This makes the recovery effect even greater.
Besides the architecture, I was also fascinated by the idea of functionality. For Karl Landauer, the spatial concept was crucial, i.e. the positioning and alignment of important infrastructures within the building. I was impressed by his argument that arrangements and walkways need to be inviting and motivating from the perspective of guests and employees.
How did the construction phase go?
The construction phase was very short at just under a year, even though it went anything but smoothly. The project was almost overturned. Due to the landslide slope, we were forced to construct a deep foundation, which caused enormous additional costs. 120 pile dwellings, each 10-14 meters deep with a diameter of 40-50 cm support the hotel, upside down this construction almost reminds a little of a hedgehog.
The construction final, I can still remember it vividly, was one of the most exciting finals of my career. Personally, I was under the greatest tension and the pressure was enormous. A week before the opening, there was uncertainty as to whether we would make it on time. Of course, since we were fully booked from the first day, that would have been a disaster. On the day of the opening, there was still a large pile of rubble in the hotel lobby and no sooner had the housekeeping, which was really working at full speed, finished with everything than we were already welcoming the first guests.
We worked practically through...
Reinhard Geschray (Kitchen Hotel)
I went to school with Peter Prisching and we always said, “Someday we’ll do something together.” With the construction of the hotel, the time had come and I started my job as head chef. The first few months were very intense because the hotel was very well received. We worked practically through…
The Avita is my "baby"...
Silvia Roth-Spiesz (Head of Housekeeping)
The time just before the opening was very stressful, I can tell many stories about that. Not even 10 days before the first guests checked in, we had no doors by the rooms. When they finally arrived they were 10 inches too long and had to be shortened and sanded down on the floors that had already been completely cleaned. Even though it was very close, I’m a positive person and I thought to myself at the time, “We’re going to finish.” I always say that the AVITA is my “baby”, it grew up with me. When you’re there from the beginning, you have a special connection to it.
Accordingly, the joy at the opening must have been very great! What do you remember most about the ceremony?
The ceremony took place on April 27, 2003. In addition to many guests of honor, we also invited the entire community of Bad Tatzmannsdorf and Oberschützen. I remember that it rained heavily until shortly before the start of the event, which was also partly held in the outdoor area. Just in time for the start, however, the sun showed up, which I interpreted as a very good omen.
The moderation was taken over by none other than Barbara Karlich. That was the first time I met her, which resulted in a beautiful connection that continues to this day. She is an avowed Avitan, which of course fills us with particular pride.
Has the new house been well received by your guests?
Absolutely! We opened our home on January 4 and were fully booked for the first three months. Before that, we invited some of our limited partners to be the first guests to inaugurate the hotel and spend the night in it. In the first year we recorded 35,000 overnight stays, and now the figure is 50,000.
The AVITA Hotel can look forward to numerous awards and a good booking situation. What do you think is the secret of success?
I am convinced that the unique ownership structure with all our limited partners contributes significantly to the success of our company. There is a unity of purpose, which contributes to tremendous traction. Projects can be carried out quickly and efficiently. We see ourselves as a leading company from the power of the region for the region.
Our brand strategy has also changed over the years, from a three-brand to a single-brand strategy. On the one hand, the resort has expanded more and more and in many directions, and on the other hand, it has grown together into one big whole, so this was a logical step for us. There is now more exclusively the AVITA with all its facets, and they are many! This has facilitated external communication, we can better communicate our wide offer to our guests.
A company is also only as good as its employees: inside. At that time, the hotel started with 52 employees, in the spa there were 40. In the meantime, we have a total of 160 employees. We want to make the southern Burgenland hospitality and cordiality tangible in our business. Numerous feedbacks from our guests indicate that we also succeed very well.
Which developments at the AVITA Resort are you particularly proud of?
It fills me with pride to be able to say that to date all business plans have been met or exceeded. All investments were preceded by an intensive thinking phase of all contributors and were implemented at the right time. In summary, our biggest milestones were:
Opening Burgenland Spa
Addition massage pool
Opening AVITA Hotel
Opening Spannonia (today Sauna Garden of Eden)
Modernization of the thermal baths, opening of the summer thermal baths (bio natural bathing pond, adventure pool, 13 romantic walkways, romantic garden, etc.), fitness center, Medita thermal baths restaurant.
Opening of the hotel’s own wellness area AVITA Exklusiv, addition of even more exclusive rooms: 22 deluxe wellness rooms and penthouse suite, restaurant expansion, opening of the Lady’s Spa.
Opening of AVITA Premium Spa, free cooking, extension of hotel terrace, seminar room Weitblick, pool bar, Uhudler sauna, Austria’s first snow sauna, day spa lounges, smoking lounge
Extension hotel kitchen & warehouse, opening wine lounge
An anniversary is always an occasion to pause for a moment and remember the past. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has accompanied us over the past years! In particular, these thanks go to our loyal regular guests, our investors and our employees: inside.
True to the motto “standing still means falling behind”, we are already working intensively on new innovative projects. I am convinced that these will again be very well received by our guests.