How Life Plays Out....
From a small bed and breakfast in a Tyrolean mountain village to a global brand in the leisure sector. As pioneers, they created opportunities for families. Giving parents time and fulfilling children’s wishes, that was the idea that is far from over. What is behind FAMILUX RESORTS was created by two people who simply dared to go a new way. Andrea and Ernst Mayer in two conversations.
A small bed and breakfast with 34 beds, which meant a lot of work and just as little free time as wages, was the starting position for teacher Ernst Mayer when he decided to become a hotelier. When everyone else was on holiday, he and his wife had extra work. The Alpenrose in Lermoos, a Tyrolean mountain village that shifted its focus to ski tourism, was one of a thousand Tyrolean houses with guest rooms. A ground-breaking future was not to be expected with his wife Andrea’s parental business. But Ernst Mayer was creative and always known for his innovative ideas. In winter, he worked as a ski instructor on the Arlberg. He not only taught his students how to ski, he filmed them on the slopes, edited fancy videos and thus sold them their holiday experiences to take home.
The Bed & Breakfast business in Lermoos was not an option for him to build a good life with his wife, at least not without change. “Unthinkable. You couldn’t even accommodate a simple busload of guests there,” Ernst Mayer recalls. “Somehow I slipped into it that way. I thought to myself: All right, I’ll try it for a season and then we’ll see. It was clear to me that we have to invest and set a focus so that we get more guests and a higher occupancy rate. My first question was: Who could come in summer? Because in winter Lermoos was well frequented because of the skiing. What I noticed was that most of the guests were pensioners and regulars. That meant the guests would probably become fewer and fewer if we didn’t look for new ones.” So, families were his answer to the question of the future. He had a vision to create a place for families. A place with possibilities. His first idea was to increase the rooms and offer childcare in the hotel. “At first, nobody understood that. The teacher has no idea, they said. I then asked the bank for a loan so we could afford the conversion, but I had little hope of convincing them of my idea.” Even though neighbours, friends and business partners were not behind him, the bank gave the concept a chance, provided the necessary capital – at a very high interest rate – for a conversion of the Alpenrose and thus laid the foundation stone for the Mayer family’s destiny. “The idea hit like a bomb. We immediately saw that this was exactly what they were looking for.”
The Mayer couple spent the next fifteen years expanding their Alpenrose. Every nook and cranny was used, every available piece of neighbouring land was integrated into the new family hotel. Over the years, the small Bed & Breakfast became a resort that fulfils almost every imaginable wish a family could have on holiday. “The guests told us what they wanted, and we simply listened and made it happen. And that’s still the way it is. Our guests’ wishes are our recipe for success.”
The Mayers have hit the nail on its head, there have been many investments and all of them have paid off. “We have done a lot, we have always improved, renewed, added to. There was no standstill and, amazingly, it all turned out to be the correct approach.”
Through this kind of slow and steady expansion, Ernst Mayer has also come to know every position in his hotel empire. He knows the fulfilling, difficult, beautiful and also the unpleasant work that such a business thrives on. “The worst was the closing duty at the bar.” He knows how the work goes, where the difficulties lie and what the guests expect from the hotel staff. If one thing worked well, he tried the next, and so not only the Alpenrose grew, but also the whole idea. “We already had our feelers out. There was a health-spa hotel in Allgäu that was auctioned off. It was a bargain and we snapped it up immediately. It was predestined for us, for our concept! We didn’t have to do much, just adapt it.” Thus, a second establishment came to be, the Kinderhotel Oberjoch in the Allgäu, and everything that was not quite feasible yet in Alpenrose, or areas of improvement, was created in Oberjoch. “We benefited enormously from the experience of the first hotel. Everything was already a bit easier.”
But it wasn’t enough for the Mayer family. The vision of the perfect children’s hotel had not yet been fulfilled. “To build our dream hotel on a greenfield site, that was our goal.” One of the prerequisites was that the greenfield site should be in an area where year-round operation is possible. There should be mountains and ski lifts. And so it happened that the Mayer family built the Dachsteinkönig family hotel in Gosau. A new resort entirely built according to their ideas, optimised through the experience from the first two hotels.
“That was wonderful, we already knew how we wanted it, learned from the other two hotels and were able to build our dream hotel on a greenfield site.”
“I deliberately didn’t take my foot off the gas,” says Ernst Mayer. “But with a train running at full throttle, some things fall by the wayside. I would have liked to be a family man. The business was always in the foreground. That is the downside of the story. But I have no regrets, because if you set goals and achieve them, it brings fulfilment.” After 30 years in contact with guests, with praise and criticism, Ernst Mayer still walks through his hotels today and thinks about what can be improved to make life better for the families.
Andrea Mayer was used to the guests. “The little Alpenrose was simply my home.” When it’s busy and the house is full, she still feels at home. But taking over the guesthouse in Lermoos from her parents was not her lifelong dream. As a young child she wanted to become a teacher. “But during my school-leaving examination I came to the realisation that a lifetime of school was not for me. But, I was left not knowing where I belonged for a long time.”
Somehow, however, Andrea Mayer was drawn to tourism, and after an internship in Switzerland and a job in the Arlberg, she took over the Alpenrose together with her husband Ernst. “We have always worked, of course also during the holidays. I can still remember my son Florian running through the dining room as a four-year-old, muttering to himself: Mum no time, dad no time, grandma and grandpa no time …” Working in the boarding house took up the whole family, and it’s still like that today. “Somehow it’s just in my blood.” With great passion, Andrea Mayer was available to her guests in the former parental business. Thus began a path that is truly unique, and with that an empire grew out of a small Bed & Breakfast – from a family for the families of this world. It was not to remain with only this one guesthouse. “On one of our really few holidays, we were in the Allgäu and a building caught my eye,” Andrea Mayer recounts. “A spa in a very special place, it caught my eye so much, the first impression was overwhelming.” Many years later, son Florian saw this very house on a platform. It was offered for sale there and Andrea Mayer immediately remembered the first impression back then on holiday. This former spa became the family’s next project, the Kinderhotel Oberjoch. This was soon followed by the green meadow on which the Mayer family built the Dachsteinkönig entirely to their specifications. After three hotels, all very successful and well occupied, the Mayer family founded their umbrella brand Familux Resorts. This brand gives families exactly what they need – quality time. “When I walk through the Alpenrose like this, I experience how thoughts become reality. What I thought a long time ago has now become so. Now it is big enough and fills every day with work. And there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t enjoyed working.”
Nevertheless, Andrea Mayer is absolutely family centric. Both sons have spent a decade each in various training and educational positions in London, the US and the Emirates. Andrea Mayer has flown to see them, taken them to dinner in New York and shown them the ropes at the Dubai marathon. The time spent together, not dominated by work in their own homes, remains in the memory. “My favourite thing is sitting at a big table with everyone around me, together.”
Original German translated to English by Familux.