“We are an entertainment area that can cater to congresses, dinners, party people… so our goal is not to have a full casino, but to have a full house in general.”
Q: What initially attracted you to the hospitality industry?
I was lucky. School wasn’t my strong point and I wanted to pay for my own studies, so I was looking for a job. I came to Casinos Austria where they gave me an option of working nightshifts, so I could attend school during the day. I was working there for 5 years, in Seefeld (Tirol), and during the summer they would send me to Velden.
After my studies I moved to a different company, but returned a year later as I was already intoxicated by the nightlife. When I came back I worked as a croupier and after a while I got the chance to go to Copenhagen, to train new croupiers, because we opened a new casino there.
After three months I then became a general manager. I definitely didn’t expected this, but in having problems with general managers at the beginning they gave me the chance to solve them out. I stayed there for a year, but wanted to come back. After Copenhagen in 1995 they sent me to Australia as a crisis manager for four months. Now I’m working here in Velden for 19 years.
Q: What kind of events fits best to Casino Velden?
We are like a vegetable garden – we do not focus on niche programmes, so we try to cater to all tastes and preferences, from cultural events to beauty pageants and everything in between. Our market is too small to be focusing on just one sort of programme or offer. We like organising concerts, singing groups with their own programmes, as people like to visit the concert and then stay on afterwards in the casino. Our product is a leisure product – people visit casinos because they wish to escape the normal pace of life.
It also depends on the season, as we are quite full during the summer, but need to work much more during the autumn and winter. We are an entertainment area that can cater to congresses, dinners, party people… so our goal is not to have a full casino, but to have a full house in general. That is my main occupation.
Q: What do you hope to achieve with Casino in the future?
Most of my plans don’t so much concern what is happening inside our building, because I believe that we get stronger when the outreach is stronger. We are therefore always connected with hotels, the community and local tourism providers, but I would like to achieve even stronger connections in the future.
For example, the street in front of the Casino has a huge importance on how we market ourselves and function in general. In the summer it needs to be a prominent (leisure) street and four years ago it was just a really busy street. This was one of my main focuses, one of the projects that I helped promote and with the help of the mayor and the municipality we made it happen. My wish is to prolong the area of the main street and transform it to be pedestrianised all the way to the Falkensteiner Schlosshotel. So I’m fighting for the street, as roads have a big impact on the tourism in Velden. That is the future.
Q: What are the main challenges of being a General Manager at Casino Velden?
I always say to my bosses in Vienna that being the director of casino Velden is the best job possible. Having the best area, a great climate and such a quality of life is so much better than anywhere else in Austria. I do consider myself to be lucky.
I do not believe that I’m the best casino manager, but I know how to connect things together. I was always hard working, I worked in a bakery when I was young, got to know the service, how to prepare coffee etc. and I never forget the things I learned early on, still conecting them with everything I do. I believe in a quality service anywhere in our house, whether it be the casino table, the conference room or the bar. We must offer quality at every level. If I would be just a casino manager, I would be out of the business in 5 years.
Q: How do you see Carinthia’s meetings industry scene?
I see good future ahead. When companies or areas are in crisis I see a great opportunity for improvement. If we do not have money to spend we now need to be clever. An international development in tourism industry and all the facilitating works in a radius of 400 km is our niche market. With all the drama currently happening in the world – the terrorism attacks and flight regulations – people will be searching for safe, clean and quality places. Slovenia will rise and become a huge market, compared to Austria.
We can learn something from the Americans when they said ‘it is not a question of fighting against each other, but always working together’. We could still learn that in Europe, as we are still fighting more than cooperating. We have been speaking for more than 20 years about the Alpe Adria region and yet we only have one regional airport that makes sense, which is Ljubljana. So we have to forget about Graz, Klagenfurt and Ronki, and make joint offers with a connection to Slovenia, connecting the train or other transportation among the regions and getting that big place that people would explore from all over Europe. To make this work people have to work together.
Q: How is Carinthia positioned as a meeting destination today and what are its positive attributes that are often overlooked?
Distances are so short to go to Slovenia or Italy, making it possible within three days to explore three different cultures. I do not believe there is another region in the world that could offer that. I believe this is what we should focus on.
Q: What is co-operation at the destination like? Are you satisfied with the promotion and work of the Carinthia Convention Bureau?
I believe we are on a good path, but as always in business, things can always improve. I like that they are offering new ways of promotion, such as you coming here. Last week we were at the meeting and also discussing how satisfied we are with Conventa, compared to events taking place in Vienna.
Q: Can you tell us more about any future investment in tourism in the Carinthia region?
For the last 2-3 years things have been improving in a very interesting way. We opened our first international school in Carinthia, one that opened four years ago in Villach and which they moved two years ago to Velden. They organised the campus area, connecting all schools within a 100-metre distance. They also built a new music school and we now see teachers coming and moving to Velden from all over the world. We also have three of the biggest international companies with offices in Carinthia that have brought international managers to the region. We can already see progress for Velden becoming a more international place; the vibe is getting better, giving it the chance to develop, not just stay a small, provincial town. I think this is very good for tourism and also good for international business development.
Q: Do you expect more intensive regional cooperation in the MICE sector?
I believe the toughest market is Italy, as it seems that culture-wise we are more connected to Slovenians than Italians. The main market remains Vienna and Bavaria in general.
Q: What else would you like to share with our readers?
We have an awesome lake here with the perfect temperature during the summer, where you can swim and even drink the water. This fresh water reflects the perfect combination of the quality of all the other services. I could maybe also use this opportunity to persuade people that we are worth the visit – we are just a short highway ride away, with direct highway exits.
Q: What is your favourite place in Carinthia?
It is hard to answer, because there are so many nice places. But I do have a favourite place in Slovenia. I’m a kayaker, so I’m always on the Soča river. For over 20 years I have been visiting the area, almost every 2 weeks, so I know the area very well and I also use the surrounding area for mountain biking.
“An international development in tourism industry and all the facilitating works in a radius of 400 km is our niche market. With all the drama currently happening in the world – the terrorism attacks and flight regulations – people will be searching for safe, clean and quality places.”