The Quellenhof is one of the largest wellness hotels in the Alps. In an interview with FOCUS Online, hotelier Dorfer, owner of the 5-star hotel, reports on construction projects, the effects of the post-Corona period, inflation and the Ukraine war.

Heinrich Dorfer is sitting relaxed in his office, just two rooms behind the Quellenhof reception. It’s small, functional, no frills.

FOCUS Online: Mr. Dorfer, how is your workload at the moment?

Henrich Dorfer: We are already 95 percent fully booked in May. June is also looking good, although we are in the upper price segment. But that doesn’t matter at the moment.

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Is this related to the post-corona period? People want to get out, have saved and treat themselves?

Dorfer: Worldwide, the gap is widening more and more. If you are addressing a higher clientele like us, fortunately the financial environment such as inflation and higher energy prices do not play a role. But this development affects the lower categories in tourism. The guest, who earns maybe 1,800 euros net per month and spent a week in Italy for 1,300 euros, is already considering whether he can still afford it. Or whether he only drives for five more days or changes to a lower category in order to save on the budget – or no longer drives at all.

That actually breaks the base.

Dorfer: At least the lower category doesn’t work that well anymore. This can also be observed very strongly in South Tyrol. We have the big addition in the 5-star category. 4 stars is still going well, with 3 stars it is already declining and with 2 stars you notice it enormously. This upward shift is not healthy, I have to say that clearly. But we cannot influence it.

Coming back to inflation and supply chain issues. Can you still get your goods?

Dorfer: We have a few problems, for example with the fish. This sometimes takes a day longer than usual. But otherwise we get enough goods.

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So the mentality in South Tyrol is different than in Germany. We love hamster purchases.

Dorfer: It’s different in Italy. Very occasionally we had in the media that there was a stockpiling of pasta. But here you can actually get everything.

And how do you react to the price increases?

Dorfer: We have already increased the prices, although we are actually operating with fixed prices for the season. We cannot adjust anything for guests who have already booked. That’s a problem because it accounts for about 70 percent of bookings. This narrows the margin. If we have a cost of goods per guest of 17 euros and this rises to 19 euros, then that costs us 30,000 euros a month. And energy and electricity costs have also tripled.

Are you trying to become energy independent?

Dorfer: We already have combined heat and power plants and produce the thermal energy in-house ourselves. But with gas, we have to buy that again. We use gas to generate electricity and use the resulting waste heat to heat for free.

So electricity is the neuralgic point.

Dorfer: Yes, the whole of Italy has too little electricity, which is why 80 percent of electricity is produced with gas. But a price cap is also being discussed here. If this is done, the question is who will ultimately pay for it.

Do you have multi-year contracts for gas and electricity?

Dorfer: Unfortunately no, they are always adjusted at short notice. But we are satisfied with our BAKWs, they bring a lot. The costs of half a million euros are currently amortized after around 2.5 years.

Despite Corona, you have invested a lot in recent years. Did you consciously take the risk even though you had to close for so long?

Dorfer: In relation to that, we weren’t closed that long. We had to close for the first time on March 12, 2020 and opened again on June 3. There was no vaccine back then, but we still had a good season. Everything was closed again in November, but opened again on April 3, 2021. We were the only ones in South Tyrol there.

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How did you do that?

Dorfer: We also set things up with our Medical Center so that guests could come to us for health reasons. Because officially no one was allowed to travel. But that worked out well, we were fully booked in April. And our Quellenhof in Lazise was not closed at all. There was also no legal situation that you had to lock up.

Did politicians actually support the companies?

Dorfer: It’s very badly positioned in Italy. But nobody went bankrupt because of it.

Did you invest heavily in the second lockdown in November 2020?

Dorfer: Yes, but we were lucky, I have to say that too. When we were stuck in the first lockdown in 2020, the local craftsmen hardly had any orders. Everyone was afraid. And at that time we decided to build the See Lodge. I didn’t want that at all, but many companies approached me and asked me to have a job themselves. The prices were in the basement. Also those of the raw materials.

do you have numbers

Dorfer: Let’s take the price of steel – I paid 68 cents per kilo. We are now at 1.70 euros. And I used 1.7 million kilos of steel, which alone means savings of around 1.7 million euros. The same applies to concrete and other raw materials.

When did you start construction?

Dorfer: In November 2020, after I signed the contracts in June. From November 7th we were no longer allowed to accommodate guests. Then we closed the house and started remodeling. Our risk was the Christmas business. We were fully booked and would have had to open again two weeks earlier. I gambled high there.

Because otherwise you would have had to interrupt the work?

Dorfer: We have redesigned a total of 70 rooms. But the lockdown stayed over Christmas and we were able to continue building. That was good, because otherwise we wouldn’t have finished by the beginning of April. We had snow like never before in our region.

How are bookings in South Tyrol going?

Dorfer: As I said, 2020 was a good season, and in 2021 we also had many new guests who didn’t want to fly away due to the pandemic and were afraid of all the controls. But I think the run to closer destinations will return to normal, even if others assume that demand will remain as strong. In terms of price, we cannot compete with Mallorca, Egypt or Turkey, so interest could shift again. At the moment we hardly have to fight for the guest anymore. Our challenge is more of getting employees.

Are refugees coming to you as a result of the war in Ukraine?

Dorfer: Yes, Italy is expecting a huge boost of 4,000 to 5,000 people. It would be nice if some of them decided to come and work for us in the future.

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