5-star luxury, all natural
The Hotel Waldklause in the Ötztal is Austria's first nature hotel. In the beginning, the hotelier family Auer was often ridiculed for working with energy consultants and measuring trees.
In the meantime, the Waldklause has received its fifth star and is the best-used hotel in the entire Ötztal. The secret of its success? Living in harmony with nature, lots of hospitality and Tirol’s mountain world as a haven of peace in stressful times.
The scent of pine needles in your nose, the feeling of coarse bark under your fingers and the taste of freshly picked mushrooms on your tongue: at Hotel Waldklause you can experience the forest with all your senses. The 5-star luxury hotel in Längenfeld in the Ötztal is Austria’s first nature hotel and the special concept can be felt everywhere in the establishment. Built from local wood and insulated with Tyrolean sheep’s wool, even the appearance of the house is something very special. Cooking is done almost exclusively with regional ingredients, the hotel has its own waste management concept and 100 percent of the heating energy comes from the Längenfeld biomass power plant. For hotelier Johannes Auer, the motivation for all these measures is clear: ‘We want to give our guests a perfect holiday and at the same time show that luxury and sustainability are not a contradiction in terms‘. The comfortable rooms were made with natural building materials and the natural SPA is also characterised by a lot of wood and the use of natural products.
From a ‘Würstelstand’ to luxury hotel
It all began quite unglamorously: After Johannes Auer’s grandfather added a campsite to his farm in the summer of 1957, Auer’s parents decided to take over the catering for the campers. Countless portions of sausages with chips gave rise to the idea of opening their own hotel. It was clear to the Auers that they had to do something special for a successful business. Because at that time Längenfeld was hardly developed for tourism and was considered by most people to be just a suburb of Sölden anyway, where there were already dozens of four-star hotels. So they went back to what had been firmly anchored in their family for generations: respect and love for nature. ‘We are originally a farming family and have been working and living off the land here for hundreds of years. This has led to a deep awareness of the beauty and needs of nature, and this is exactly what we want to live with our hotel and pass on to our guests,‘ says Auer.
First ridiculed, then envied
At first, the family’s novel concept met with a lot of incomprehension and amusement. ‘At that time, we measured every tree so that we would have to cut down as few as possible. That made many people shake their heads,‘ Johannes Auer remembers. But the guests were enthusiastic and within a few years the Waldklause became the best-used hotel in the Ötztal. This, in turn, very quickly brought the competition onto the scene. ‘In general, there is a lot of copying in the industry, but the audacity of some surprised me. We received requests to make our building plans available free of charge and more than once I caught a hotelier with an architect and photographer in the hallway simply taking pictures of everything. But as they say, imitation is the highest form of recognition,‘ Auer smiles.
Awards and future plans
Over the years, the hotelier family has been able to collect many different awards with their extraordinary concept: 3 lilies in the Relax Guide, the Austrian and European eco-label, member of the Climate Alliance and inclusion in the Tripadvisor Hall of Fame – the list could go on and on. Moreover, with the achievement of the fifth star in 2018, the Waldklause is now one of the four top hotels in the entire Ötztal.
However, the hotelier does not want to rest on his laurels: ‘We are constantly developing our business and are already planning the next measures.‘ In the future, guests will be encouraged to forego daily room cleaning in order to save resources. One topic is particularly close to Johannes Auer’s heart: ‘We and many other hotels try to obtain our food from regional suppliers as much as possible. However, we often still have to go through wholesalers because the local farmers do not have a common platform through which they can distribute their products centrally and independently. That would be a real improvement in the long run and would make purchasing more sustainable and environmentally friendly‘.
Finding peace in the mountains
With all the plans and responsibilities, it can sometimes get quite stressful. For Johannes Auer, there’s only one thing to do: head for the mountains! ‘I’m a mountaineer and mountain guide and once I’m on the rock, I don’t think about anything else. It’s my absolute haven of peace and strength‘.
The Naturhotel Waldklause is a member of the Green Filming database Marketplace Tirol. There you will find products and services from regional and sustainable Tyrolean companies that can be used for your film production.
Moreover, the Naturhotel Waldklause is a Tyrolean success story. Lebensraum Tirol Holding, in cooperation with its subsidiaries (Tirol Tourist Board, Standortagentur Tirol and Agrarmarketing Tirol), brings special companies, projects, initiatives and people before the curtain. What they all have in common is that they play a pioneering role and act as role models for sustainability and responsible business. They contribute to the sustainability of the Tyrolean economy, society and environment and encourage the dissemination of sustainable change concepts. You can find more success stories here (in German only).