UNIQUE EXPERIENCE by Andrew Harvey. ‘Heading off for some ski, are we? ‘Asks a fellow passenger on board the Easyjet flight to Innsbruck. ‘No, unfortunately, but I am equally excited to be visiting Alpbach, a village you can rent exclusively for meetings and events’ I said. For the next hour and a half my fellow passenger was just fascinated and enthused by the whole concept. How, why and when could this be done he would ask.
Every now and again, in our ever evolving industry, something stirs the imagination, gets the old ‘creative juices flowing’ and makes me realise why I entered the business ‘all those years ago’. Alpbach, situated in the heart of the Austrian Tyrol, 45 minutes from Innsbruck, offers a totally ‘Unique’ Meeting experience in a village dubbed: ‘The most beautiful in Austria’. I have been talking to the Alpbach team for some time and now was the time to see it and taste it.
To understand Alpbach you must first look at its history, both distant and more recent. Dating back to 1150 this settlement, situated on a sunny plateau at 1000metres, has attracted a variety of settlers including Irish and Scottish monks, the local church is St Oswald, a former King of Northumbia. Over the next few centuries mining of copper attracted more settlers, after which farming became a focal point and still is a key part of the local economy. With the main road into the village not being built till 1926 Alpbach remained the ‘picture-perfect model alpine village’ a lot longer than others in the Tyrol. Since 1945, Alpbach has been the venue for the Alpbach European Forum, an annual two-week conference of leading figures from the worlds of science, business, the arts and politics. The Forum and the participation of so many people who have shaped the thinking of their times has given Alpbach the nickname, “The Village Of Thinkers”.
In 1953, the local Mayor, Alfons Moser passed a law, which made the traditional style of architecture in Alpbach mandatory for all new buildings. The exception? The new Congress Centre built in 1999 and opened to coincide with the 55th Forum. It is an ‘architectural jewel’ designed by a local firm DIN A4, designed to impart light. It respected the typical look of the village by setting the building into a slope, optimizing energy consumption and reducing impact on nature. A glass spiral ensures that daylight floods into all rooms and halls. Over the years the village has been bestowed with many awards and accolades: ‘The Cleanest and purest air in all of Austria’, ‘Austria’s Most Beautiful Village’ and ‘The Most Beautiful Floral Village in Europe’ award. In June 1985, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg conferred upon Alpbach the right to fly the European flag in recognition of the community’s services to European Unity.
So, arriving back at the present my trip for two days was to see the team at the Congress Centre, see how the new extension is developing and most importantly meeting and staying with the locals. The pictures and stories do not do Alpbach justice and the term ‘most beautiful village’, to me, could describe the local villagers, all of whom, have the same passion for their village, the Forum and how the whole village embraces events.
The Congress Centre is wholly supported by ‘Alpbach Premium Partners’, accommodation providers that wholly support their green meeting strategies. If my home for two days is anything to go by then the service levels, accommodation and facilities must all be first class.
I was staying at Romantikhotel Boglerhof, owned by the delightful Duftner family. They offer beautifully appointed guestrooms (they have 71 and are the largest in the village), and as with all premium partners offering Free Wifi, excellent range of fair trade and locally sourced products breakfast. Unfortunately time did not allow to use the excellent spa and pool facilities, great wine cellar (where Johannes Duftner with talk and taste you through a great selection of Austrian wines, I can vouch for the wines, Red and White!). The village concept works because of the commitment and support of the Premium partners, there are over 36. I visited a range from 3 and 4 star and to family run pensions. All offer the same consistently, high levels of personal service (being family run) individuality and great quality of rooms and breakfast offerings. Each partner embraces the ‘Green and Sustainable’ strategies of the Congress Centre: E Bike rental, solar panels and of course, one thing you cannot escape, the incredibly beautiful mountain valley backdrop. You are amongst nature at its finest, summer or winter.
Along with the great variety of accommodation providers the village offers excellent dining options both within the hotels, village restaurants, and a couple of stunning Mountain Huts. The ‘Hornboden‘ at 1820m can be reached by gondola and for a great night option you can rent the gondola to take the party up the mountain. The venue can cater for 400 people on the ground floor, 130 people on the first floor and 90 seats in the winter garden. Additionally it has two terraces, one for 110 guests and the other for 300 guests.
So with great accommodation and dining options what about the meeting facilities? Well aside from some of the meeting rooms and salons in the hotels, the centre piece is the Congress Centre. For a village of this size, there can be no other with such an impressive meeting facility and certainly not one as striking or with the technical capabilities. When the new extension is finished in August 2016, in time for the European Forum, the centre will offer tremendous variety of space. The new extension alone will offer a meeting room with over 7000 square feet of meeting space, divisible into 4 rooms with a 18 foot ceiling. This is in addition to the existing main meeting room of 4500 feet with 18 foot ceiling. This is a very impressive piece of space and ideal for a range of events, especially when you consider there are 5 other smaller meeting rooms and a foyer space in both the existing and the extension sections of over 9600 square feet! More than 20000 square feet of space!
When you add in all the very latest technology and vast exterior space for vehicles or product displays. Wow!, this really is one incredible ‘event village’.
There are even some branding opportunities to project or display company logos throughout the village to personalise the event experience. The great outdoor spaces are ideal for team building activities and events and with skiing in winter, biking in the summer, historic villages, castles and Swarovski close by, there are plenty of additional activities.
Alpbach is a complete destination for the client that is looking for a sustainable, green venue, with individuality and above all superb levels of service. From 175 to 500 people, the village can be yours to experience.
In my opinion this creates a ‘totally memorable event experience that any attendee would talk about for years to come’. A lot of people may be able to stay in a 5 star hotel, but not many can become ‘part of a village‘.
Uniqueworld are delighted to be supporting Alpbach and the Congress Centre. I do hope we will have an opportunity of showcasing how, why and where it can be done….
Oh, and as for my fellow passenger on Easyjet, he was heading off to work on a ‘skiing reality TV show called ‘The Jump’.
Forget that, ‘Alpbach is reality’ and you should ‘jump at the chance’!