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A chat with ÖHV President, hotel owner and all-round powerhouse Michaela Reitterer

Michaela Reitterer is a true jack-of-all-trades. The owner of the innovative Boutiquehotel Stadthalle in Vienna, president of the Austrian Hotelier Association (ÖHV), and board member of respACT, Austria's leading platform for corporate social responsibility and sustainable development, is a busy woman. Nevertheless, she made time to talk to us about digitalization, sustainability and future prospects in the hotel industry.

Besides her numerous responsibilities Michaela Reitterer loves to spend time in the nature.

As a hotel owner, ÖHV president and now also a board member of respACT, you are truly a hardworking power woman. Is there still time for private things?

Yes, you have to make time for that. For one, I am a doting grandmother. Because my two children live abroad, I unfortunately do not see my grandchildren as often as I would like. But when they are with me, I give them all of my attention. In my free time, I also try to be active. I exercise regularly and travel a lot with my husband. I am also a passionate gardener.

Finally, all hotels can welcome guests again. How did you prepare your team and the Boutiquehotel Stadthalle for the reopening and the time ahead?

We held a team building event. All the employees came together, we ate, and we had some fun. In compliance with distancing rules, of course. Each person had their own table in the breakfast room. After that, everyone spent the night in their own room at the hotel. That was our kickoff for the reopening. Then it was down to the nitty-gritty: receiving bookings, cleaning, training sessions. In addition, we had set ourselves the goal of fulfilling our role as hosts even more and breaking out of the rigid departmental thinking. This has led to us now having only two teams in our hotel. We’ve got the hosts, so everyone who is front-stage, and the angels in the back. 

In any case, the anticipation of the reopening was palpable throughout the team. Although the number of bookings is not comparable to that before the crisis, we are observing an increase in demand for summer and fall, so we are hopeful and motivated.

In any case, the anticipation of the reopening was palpable throughout the team. Although the number of bookings is not comparable to that before the crisis, we are observing an increase in demand for summer and fall, so we are hopeful and motivated.

Michaela Reitterer, a notable personality in hotel business.
Michaela Reitterer Owner “Botiquehotel Stadthalle”

In March, you joined the board of respACT, where the focus is on sustainability and digitalization in business. How do you assess the status of digitalization in the hotel industry?

People often forget that the tourism sector has always been at the forefront of digitalization. Digital rating and booking platforms such as TripAdvisor or Booking.com existed twenty years ago. I view the hotel industry as a trendsetter in the field. Before you could even shop online, you could book a vacation online. Now every step, from the initial plan of going on a vacation, all the way to booking it and eventually rating it, takes place digitally. So, anyone who claims that the hotel industry is lagging when it comes to digitalization is seriously mistaken.

What, according to you, are the advantages of hotelkit in terms of sustainability?

I am a big fan of hotelkit. What I find sensational about the digital platform is that a company’s knowledge is never lost. This concept also ties in with sustainability because otherwise you always have to start from scratch. 

Another great advantage of the tool is the unimpeded flow of information between all employees. For me, being in the picture about every wish of a guest is the basic requirement for a good host. Let’s say I’m a guest and my wife is sick. If I have to remind reception about this every day, that will leave a negative impression on me. At our hotel, this type of patchy communication is a thing of the past. Reception would know that there was a medical emergency the previous night and a member of staff would have already obtained the right medication from the pharmacy. Guests will remember this special service, and they will come again. 

Another great advantage of the tool is the unimpeded flow of information between all employees. For me, being in the picture about every wish of a guest is the basic requirement for a good host.

Michaela Reitterer, a notable personality in hotel business.
Michaela Reitterer Owner “Botiquehotel Stadthalle”

What I also really appreciate about hotelkit is the personal responsibility it encourages among employees. One employee might like to look at the latest news the night before, so they can be in the loop before they even start their shift. Another might prefer to check the notifications once he gets to work because they want to separate their work and private life. So, what I like so much about the digital tool is that how they use it is up to the individual. 

In terms of sustainability, the paperless work, which is made possible by hotelkit, is of course also worth mentioning. I still remember the paper-intensive day-to-day work before that. The handover book and the many notes that were floating around the reception desk afterwards. The innovation the Ideas tool has brought to our hotel is a real blessing. In the past, ideas were often thrown around for weeks or months until they were finally implemented, forgotten or discarded again. Now, when someone has a good idea, they post it to hotelkit, and it doesn’t take long for it to come to fruition.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a matter close to your heart. How can hoteliers make a contribution here?

For me, it makes no difference which professional group someone belongs to: Everyone has the opportunity to live sustainably. It is important to be aware of which area of sustainability can be implemented particularly well in my business, depending on the circumstances. Building on this foundation, a company’s sustainability can be gradually increased, and they might go from two to five defined goals by the next year.

It makes no difference which professional group someone belongs to: Everyone has the opportunity to live sustainably.

Michaela Reitterer, a notable personality in hotel business.
Michaela Reitterer Owner “Botiquehotel Stadthalle”

To illustrate my approach with a well-known example: The Das Weiße Rössl at Lake Wolfgang has its own fishery, which already implies water protection, since the fish is not given feed containing antibiotics. Therefore, that’s an aspect of sustainability that the Das Weiße Rössl already fulfills by default. This can be built upon. 

Before the Corona crisis, tourism in some regions of Austria had become overtourism in individual markets. Should the concept be changed in the long term to set up a more balanced and sustainable tourism after the crisis?

Absolutely. We need to ask ourselves whether we really want to value quality over quantity. “More and more, more and more” does not strike me as the optimal solution, especially for a tourist destination like Austria. Nobody benefits from masses squeezing their way through tourist hotspots. Not the local population, not the people who work there, and certainly not the tourists themselves. Therefore, I am an advocate of the breaking up of tourist flows. We have to point out what else there is worth seeing. Here I consider Vienna’s visitor strategy to be exemplary. In contrast to other major European cities, Vienna is a metropolis with a clearly defined city center, where the tourist flows are concentrated. For this reason, communication was designed to make other districts attractive for tourists.

We need to ask ourselves whether we really want to value quality over quantity. “More and more, more and more” does not strike me as the optimal solution, especially for a tourist destination like Austria.

Michaela Reitterer, a notable personality in hotel business.
Michaela Reitterer Owner “Botiquehotel Stadthalle”

Quick-fire round at the end:

The last app I downloaded was?

FITAPP

Android or IOS?

IOS

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?

Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram

3 things you would take with you to a desert island?

My cell phone, Kindle and headphones

Your next trip as soon as that’s possible again?

To see my son in Vietnam

Online check-in or reception?

Reception

Tea or coffee?

Coffee

Which restaurant will you go to first after the reopening?

Nautilus at the Naschmarkt

About Michaela Reitterer: Michaela Reitterer, born in 1964 in Vienna, took over her parents’ “Hotel zur Stadthalle” in 2001 after various positions in the tourism sector. In 2002, she expanded the hotel, and it became the “Boutiquehotel Stadthalle”. In 2009, it was the first city hotel in the world with a zero-energy balance. Sustainable quality management, innovation and modern specialist training are particularly important to the passionate entrepreneur. Michaela Reitterer is the President of the Austrian Hotelier Association (ÖHV) and a board member of respACT, Austria’s leading platform for corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. For special services to sustainability in tourism, she was awarded the Silver Decoration of Honor of the Republic of Austria, the Green Hotelier Award Europe, the Certificates of Excellence and the Austrian Climate Protection Prize of the ORF. 

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