What is “hospitality the Vorarlberg way” and what can we learn from it to increase the quality of our events? For Christian Schützinger, the CEO of Vorarlberg Tourism, the answer to this question is already clear: “The values of regionality, hospitality, and sustainability are reflected in the region’s unique culture, culinary tradition, craftsmanship, and relationship with nature.” So how can hospitality, sustainability, and regionality influence the success of an event? These questions were the focus of the 7th Vorarlberger Convention Forum in December 2017, where I had the opportunity to discuss this exciting topic with five other experts. One thing soon became clear: attending to the guest’s individual needs and the having well-informed staff both have a major impact on whether or not guests perceive a region as welcoming and have a good experience.

How welcoming an environment is and how friendly the people are also play a role. A guest’s perception of hospitality can also be affected by the level of customer service they experience in situations that are not related to a specific event, such as their interactions with the train conductor, a taxi driver, or when they’re buying their morning newspaper. Together with the native Vorarlberger hospitality expert, Dietmar Nussbaumer from Hotel Gasthof Krone in Hittisau, we briefly discussed international and local examples of hospitality, and then gathered other ideas and personal anecdotes from the participants. Where and when have you experienced great hospitality? Which moments made you feel the most welcome whilst consuming some kind of service. We collected some of the most common responses for you here:

  • A personal greeting at the reception or a welcome message in the room can create a positive and welcoming atmosphere for guests right from the beginning.
  • When the staff are warm and sincere, it can quickly make the atmosphere more comfortable and friendly.
  • A love and an eye for details can often make all the difference.
  • Making the guest feel welcome, especially when they arrive at an event alone.
  • Guests appreciate personal recommendations and tips from the staff much more than a list of restaurants in the guest brochure and show them customer orientation.

The participants then shared their own experiences and talked about  different aspects of hospitality in the region of Vorarlberg in small groups. The goal of the discussion was to collect some key takeaways that could be put into practice in the future. One of these takeaways was that everything starts with the staff and their appearance as a host. The staff are the ambassadors of hospitality for a region, a hotel, or an event. Hospitality can be strengthened with good customer service and a welcoming atmosphere, but ultimately it comes down to the staff to bring hospitality to life for the guests. This is why it is so important to actively involve the staff, to value them, and communicate openly with them, because they have a significant influence on guest satisfaction.

In the workshop on the topic of regionality, it also became clear that not only products like gifts or local cuisine should be shared with the guests, but also authentic cultural experiences that entice the guests to come again. In addition to focusing on cultural attractions, experts on sustainability also stressed the importance of focusing more on mobility. After participating in the forum and having the opportunity to exchange hospitality insights and ideas with the other participants, I am convinced that we are well on our way to making our country, and Vorarlberg in particular, an even better destination for conferences and events.