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Josef & Maria Falkensteiner
Some stories just cannot be invented. The story of Maria and Josef Falkensteiner in Ehrenburg, South Tyrol, is one such story. Because the story of how Maria and Josef Falkensteiner set up a small, simple and modest pension with seven beds at Lake Ehrenburger in 1957, laying the foundations of what is today a leading hotel group in the Alpine and Adriatic region, could and would be labelled as kitsch. Far-fetched. Too cute, too romantic and to heartbreakingly heart-warming to be true - but that's just what it is. True.
Today, in 2017, the time has come to look back. To the very beginnings. To the story of a family for whom hospitality was not just a word but an inspiration: To the story of a family that came up with a vision and turned into a reality here, near Bruneck, with all their passion, a lot of hard work and selfless toil that set new standards and benchmarks in the tourism industry as early as in the 60s – and continue to move forward to this day: today, 60 years on, Falkensteiner Michaeler Tourism Group with its 2,000 employees at 32 hotels, resorts and residences in six European countries continues to define what state-of-the-art hospitality is, should be and ought to be – and will continue to do so in the years ahead. Be it at the Falkensteiner family, ski, wellness, golf and city hotels – or at the 5-star hotels of the Falkensteiner Premium Collection.
In fact, the secret behind this story which goes back 60 years is no secret. Because what "Falkensteiner" stands for as a concept and brand are the values of a family: a brand of people who, despite the professionalization, despite the growth, despite the internationalisation, have never forgotten and will never forget one thing: hospitality comes from the heart. A good host provides more than just room and board – a good host provides a home.
It is not without reason that the Falkensteiner motto sums up Maria und Josef Falkensteiner's guiding motive, vision und commitment in a short, simple sentence. Words that tell a story that you just cannot invent – simply because it's true. It is the story of Maria and Josef Falkensteiner.
20 - No limits ahead
For Falkensteiner Group, 1997 was something like 1969 was for NASA. Granted: a South Tyrolean corporation entering the Austrian Market does not quite compare with a moon landing. But the gist of what they felt, Erich and Andreas Falkensteiner as well as Otmar Michaeler – who have jointly been presiding over Falkensteiner's destiny in Falkensteiner Michaeler Tourism Group (FMTG) since 1995 - when they took on the former Club Robinson at Katschberg is best expressed by paraphrasing Neil Armstrong's words:
“That's one giant leap for a business enterprise.”
The young trio of hotel operators had no idea at the time. But: what we know as Club Funimation Katschberg and Hotel Cristallo today kicked off an expansion and growth drive on Katschberg Mountain in Carinthia at an altitude of 1,600 metres above sea level of a scale never before seen in Europe.
In the same year, i.e. in 1997, Falkensteiner Group ventured into the city hotel business: opening its first hotel in Vienna.
Today, two Vienna city hotels and hotels in Prague, Bratislava and Belgrade as well as Falkensteiner Hotel & Asia Spa Leoben make up the Falkensteiner city hotel segment.
At the same time – and on an ongoing basis – the years since 1997 have seen the planning, development and realisation of holiday and family hotels and resorts - further extending the large and diverse Falkensteiner family.
10 - Vienna Calling
2007 South Tyrol is great. In terms of its landscapes – but also as a place with symbolic power for Europe: whereas the separation from Austria was a problem issue up until the 80s in the 20th century and felt to be the cause for seemingly unbridgeable linguistic and cultural barriers, a generation has emerged that perceives, and is inspired by, this cultural duality as an enrichment. Italian lightness and zest for life combined with Tyrolean straightforwardness and sense of belonging. A blend that can hardly be topped. Especially in tourism – where we get to experience and show how open-mindedness and not parochialism create a win-win situation.
The Falkensteiner story is a downright archetypical example of what South Tyrolean industriousness, passion and hospitality can achieve or accomplish.
But there's a catch: the location. There are many reasons why a hotel and tourism business that wants to be on top of things not only regionally and in the local scene needs to venture out onto the battlefield where other decision-makers, partners, clients and competitors mingle, where it is in full view and exposed: in a major urban metropolis.
Therefore, relocating FMTG's head office to Vienna in 2007 was pragmatic and strategic move of major importance to ensure the further development of the group. Also, the Falkensteiner brothers and Otmar Michaeler had long realised that a company of such diversity would only be effective, strong and commercially successful in modern structures.
In the meantime, Michaeler and the Falkensteiners had become more than mere hotel managers: in addition to planning and developing tourism operations of all types, they have become formidable players in the industry, developing tourism concept and offering advisory services, investor sourcing, site appraisals and the planning and floating hotel & mixed-use projects. The same holds true when it comes to strategic advice and consulting in all matters related to reconstruction and refurbishment in the field of tourism.
In other words, they manage a total portfolio that covers all areas and all the needs of tourism operations in an integrated framework. And this is exactly the standard that FMTG aspires to itself: the integrated approach. To make good on this, relocating FMTG's head office to Vienna was not the only important and right thing to do. In addition, "360-degrees tourism" was established as a powerful claim – and in the course of this repositioning, a new group structure was implemented: that of a new holding company. FMTG – i.e. Falkensteiner Michaeler Tourism Group AG - now unites all business divisions under one roof.
Today, the portfolio is broadly diversified. It currently comprises 32 hotels, resorts and apartments. Some of them are managed and some of the owned by FMTG. This distinction is neither visible nor tangible for guests on site: Falkensteiner values and standards are held up high and implemented equally at all the locations.
Whether at the ski and family hotels in the provinces of South Tyrol, Carinthia and Styria or at the golf and wellness centres in Burgenland, Upper Austria or at Marienbad, the historical Czech spa. Whether at the exclusive 5-star hotels of the Falkensteiner Premium Collection or at the most beautiful beaches of Croatia, Sardinia or the Adriatic Sea.
No telling where this journey that began in 1997 is heading: there are lots of project and plans – in the immediate future, the "Falkensteiner" brand and FMTG will not only be strengthening their presence in Croatia but also making their appearance on the German scene as hotel operators.