30 years anniversary: Bernadette und Simone Domenig share their story
Together with her daughter Simone and the SHF crew, Bernadette Domenig created a landmark in Alpine hospitality. Schlosshotel Fiss occupies a special place as one of the leading luxury hotels for family and spa getaways whilst preserving its very unique character. In this interview, the entrepreneurs share their own personal Schlosshotel stories, as well as insights into what motivates and inspires them today. Ms Bernadette Domenig, a remarkable success story began once you signed the contract to purchase the Schlosshotel, which had been so named by its previous owners, the Sailer family. It’s a story of entrepreneurial focus, authentic hospitality, and good fortune.
Can you describe what it was like making this major decision?
Bernadette Domenig (BD): I always saw something special in the Schlosshotel. It has a kind of magic that continues to fascinate me today. When it was put up for sale, I was already very involved in my first business, the Kupferpfandel à-la-carte restaurant, and so I was hesitant at first. However, it was as if the hotel was waiting for me. The moment I was ready to take on the responsibility for this special place was an overwhelmingly beautiful experience.
You first opened your Schlosshotel Fiss just in time for Christmas 1991. The years of development were intense, yet characterised by continuous growth. What were the key actions that led to the Schlosshotel’s success?
BD: For one thing, we positioned the hotel as a family retreat from the very beginning. Then we included a specialised focus on wellness and spa experiences at the end of the 1990s. At the same time it was important that we continuously reinvested our profits to expand our success. It’s always been my firm belief that if you don’t go forward, you go backwards. Following this credo, we’ve always moved forward.
Ms Simone Domenig, you were nine years old when you moved into the newly acquired Schlosshotel together with your parents. What was that like for you?
Simone Domenig (SD): At first I didn’t even realise what it meant for me. When it was time to move, I didn’t want to leave. I was worried I’d be too far away from my friends and school and that I’d be lonely up here at the far end of the village. I only agreed to move when my parents promised me a horse. [laughs] That convinced me! When I saw that my friends still came to visit me and I got to experience how great it is to live in a house with a swimming pool and all these other features, I was really happy to call this my home. I completely forgot about the horse, and family life wasn’t all that different from when my parents had managed the à-la-carte restaurant. I was very happy.
Ms Bernadette Domenig, did you ever have any worries about juggling life as an entrepreneur and mother of two?
BD: Never. I only had great respect for my tasks and I was deeply grateful for every step that we moved forward.
Were there any failures you cannot forget?
BD: No one can prevent failures and mistakes. That being said, I believe we should learn from mistakes rather than continuously remind ourselves of them.
Ms Simone Domenig, after having grown up at Schlosshotel Fiss, you attended the Villa Blanka school of hotel management and spent some time abroad. In 2004, you returned home. Did you know back then that you would devote your life to managing Schlosshotel Fiss?
SD: Not at all. At the time, I was interested in social work. However, my life became more and more intertwined with the hotel. No matter what plans I made, the hotel was always my anchor and home. In 2004, I returned to the hotel as an employee. The more I learnt about hotel management and the more tasks I became familiar with, the more I wanted to get better and better at every one of them. I worked as the head of reception until 2010. Then, I transferred to the hotel’s accounting department to become familiar with the financial aspects of managing a hotel. Throughout my career at the hotel, this work has become my passion. In 2013, shortly before my 30th birthday, I was absolutely ready to join the management team. Eventually, in 2016, I was fully equipped to take over as co-owner of Schlosshotel Fiss.
What has changed since then?
SD: Many things! By taking over management I also assumed the responsibility for operational decisions. This means that I received the opportunity not only to assume Schlosshotel Fiss as my inheritance but also realise my own ideas in developing it further. One of the first steps I undertook was working towards achieving a five-star rating for our hotel and installing new benefits and structures for the SHF crew. A generational change has also taken place within the crew. I’m happy about this, because the hotel industry is a fast-moving, dynamic field that we can greatly impact by pulling together. With every decision and every step forward, I’ve grown closer to the hotel and its employees. I feel like we are closely connected and I feel responsible for our overall success. I also appreciate that I could always rely on my mother’s full trust and support. She has always been by my side and readily available to provide me with her advice – be it regarding the hotel’s furnishing, strategic questions, or simply as a loving grandmother.
How did you experience this transitional change, Ms Bernadette Domenig?
BD: I consider change a vital part of life. I’ve always experienced it as something refreshing and inspiring. Having Simone as my successor feels like winning the lottery. The handover of the hotel management was a great success and my personal highlight inthe Schlosshotel’s 30-year history. I am immensely proud of her.
What is your most treasured memory of the last 30 years, Ms Simone Domenig?
SD: Since Schlosshotel Fiss is my home, I have countless beautiful memories of this place: the many family celebrations, our wedding, the 25-year anniversary, the many cheerful New Year’s Eve parties we celebrated with our dear guests, and all those inspiring encounters with our employees along with the quiet closing of the season meetings. At the end of each season we get together with the department managers and look back on the past months. No matter how intense and busy a season, this moment is always exclusively positive and rewarding. In the end, it’s always the good things that count the most. It also makes me happy to have seen so many SHF crew members settle down here and go along with the generational change. I am grateful for everyone who has shared in and played their part in the story of this exceptional place, as well as for those who are walking with us into its future.
What is important to you with regard to the Schlosshotel’s future?
SD: I personally wish for the hotel to remain the place where my family gathers to eat together almost daily and where we can also celebrate special occasions. I hope that it continues to grow and meet the highest level of comfort and luxury. However, it should also remain steeped in tradition and maintain its friendly, downto- earth nature, which my family, the SHF crew, and our guests value so much. Obviously, we also wish to continue creating new Schlosshotel experiences, but at the same time preserve the sense of stability and harmony embodied by Schlosshotel Fiss.
What challenges are waiting for you? What opportunities?
SD: Competition in the Alpine area is growing. What sets us apart is that we have never relied on short-lived trends. Instead we focus on investing in our individual and authentic development – and I believe our guests recognise and appreciate this. I think one of our greatest advantages lies in our open, modern, yet deep-rooted approach to moving forward. We seek to impress our guests not only with architectural innovation and excellent infrastructure, but also with our exceptional level of service. The SHF crew plays a significant role in this, and I’m pleased that we can provide them so many benefits. I’m particularly proud of the recently established SHF Home, which offers our employees authentic, modern living in a prime location.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
SD: I enjoy that this is not just my job but my vocation. Although managing a hotel of this size obviously involves many challenges, I don’t experience this task as a burden. I’m good at making decisions and can confidently stand behind each one of them. The fact that my family and the hotel are closely intertwined is something that I cherish and consider as enriching and beneficial for all. I hardly ever take worry home with me and I can savour the successes.
What do you wish for Schlosshotel Fiss?
SD: I wish for things to continue as they are and that we’ll have plenty more opportunities to realise new ideas and projects. I also wish for the SHF crew to continue to grow and hope that we can inspire more and more people to identify with Schlosshotel Fiss and join us in our journey to develop this special place further.
Ms Bernadette Domenig, what are you grateful for?
BD: I’m simply grateful for the way things are.