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/ Wellness Tourism. The first large circle closes

A few years ago I was hired for the annual training of the Austrian tourism teachers. Professor Wechselberger at Villa Blanka, a renowned tourism school in Innsbruck, organized the event and asked me to speak about the significance of wellness tourism, which everybody seemed to be talking about. When she told me where the seminar was to be held – at the “Liebes Rot Flüh” 5 star hotel in the Tannheim valley in Tirol – I had a wonderful déjà vu.

In spring 1993, this was where I was able to convince the Huber family owning the hotel to invest in an utterly new kind of venture: wellness tourism. In times when hotels still revolved around beauty farms, saunas and tennis, this constituted a challenging endeavor. The term “wellness” was just starting to become more common in the hotel industry. Occasionally, you would find an “oasis of wellbeing” or two opening their doors. And there I was, talking about the next major topic: health, prevention and lifestyle.

Back then, what we did was really a pretty bold move. The risk of entering the market with a good idea prematurely was high. In marketing, timing is essential. Getting in too early is just as bad as being late. Was the time ripe for special programs for healthy people targeted at keeping them healthy? Up to that point wellness had only been an issue when it came to regaining lost health.

So we were clearly treading on virgin soil, and what a inspiring challenge it was. The seminars I was asked to design for the guests were intensive and highly professional. Even then we offered medical examinations, exercise electrocardiograms, blood tests and muscle function testing. At that time these services represented a real novelty in the hotel industry.

For the sake of honesty, it must be said that our new ideas were accompanied by a fair share of good luck. Fortune favored the brave when no one less than Vaclav Havel, the extremely popular president of the Czech Republic at the time, author and human rights campaigner, honored the Rot Flüh hotel with a three-week stay. I had the opportunity to support him to improve his compromised health: a wonderful personal and human experience that has left a lasting impression on me. (see images)

The national and international reports in the media following his stay naturally spurred a real drive for wellness tourism resulting in health weeks becoming an integral part of the hotel experience.

On November 11 I will return to the Rot Flüh hotel with great pleasure to see my old friends, the Huber family; and I will be lecturing the Austrian tourism teachers on the wellness tourism concept, which has meanwhile been well established. A large professional as well as personal circle will be closed exactly where it started twenty years ago when I orchestrated the first pioneering steps.

Many thanks to Sonja Huber, the hotel owner, for recognizing the significance of the topic back in those times and for granting me the opportunity to give wellness tourism a flying start at the Rot Flüh hotel.

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