The St. Veit institution Landhaus Empl has become Hotel Silberfux. We talked with host Simon Empl about the successful relaunch. Landhaus Empl was regarded as an institution in St. Veit im Pongau; the embodiment of the hospitality and cosiness of the Salzburg Sun Terrace. Last year, hosts Susanne and Simon Empl dared to take a large, brave step, and fully revamped their hospitality business. Landhaus Empl became Hotel Silberfux; the brand relaunch brought a new CI, a fourth star, and wonderful stories with it. The high standards remain: cosy, familial, with high culinary standards.
We talked with owner Simon Empl about his childhood and youth growing up in a country house, the Silberfux relaunch, and the effects of the Corona pandemic on the tourism industry and his business.
In conversation with Simon Empl
Did you help out in your parents’ business as a child?
My earliest memories with guests in our house are that I always loved telling jokes and entertaining the guests. Later I started helping out here and there. I always knew that this was my future profession, there were no doubts!
Can you tell us a little more about your professional career?
After primary, secondary and tourism school, I did ten years of seasonal work. I checked out as many hotels as possible. After many years working in service I decided to venture into the kitchen as I was aware that I needed the know-how for back home. There was even half a year spent in Canada. I met Susanne, the love of my life, at Hotel Alpina in Alpendorf.
How old were you when you and wife Susanne took over your parents’ business?
We took over from my parents in 2008, making us 27 and 23 respectively.
You are passionate hosts. How much time due you have for your private life with your two lovely children during the peak seasons?
There was hardly any free time in the first few years after we took over from my parents. This has changed over the years, thanks to our children Sandra and Simon. We structure our days and weeks completely differently to have some time with the family even during the peak season. You also need some time to unwind to get back to the business side of things with recharged batteries.
What persuaded you to turn ‘Hotel Landhaus Empl’ into an entirely different “brand” in 2020?
The rebranding stemmed from the desire to get rid of the name ‘Appartementhaus’ (Eng. ‘apartment house’), because we only rent out our family rooms with breakfast or half-board. Following intense discussions with our marketing firm (Rebell Creative) with Nadine Oberpacher, it became clear that we needed a new image. It was vital for us to create a memorable brand with high recognition value for modern media such as Facebook or Instagram. To be successful these days, you need to prove to your guest from the very first moment that your product has high value and that its quality speaks for itself. Reading ‘Goldene Zeiten in den Bergen’ (Eng. ‘golden times in the mountains’), you know what is expected.
Were your parents immediately on board/excited about your plans?
My parents built the business with lots of passion and have seen what we have made of it over the past 13 years. That’s why taking another step into the future with us was easy for them.
What do your regulars think about Hotel Silberfux and Haus Sonnengold?
The brand relaunch is especially popular with our younger guests. And the older regulars know they can continue to expect the high quality they expect from us.
We’ve been living with the Corona situation for over a year now. How are you dealing with it?
Corona completely turned our lives upside down, like it did for many others. Aside from the economic situation which we managed to overcome without difficulty thanks to financial support, we especially worry about our staff. Long-time employees, some of whom had been with us from the start, have left for other sectors. Despite everything, we are optimistically looking towards summer and hope to be able to put it all behind us soon.
What do you think is the future for tourism after Corona?
Travelling has become a basic need for people. Letting oneself be pampered, enjoying good food, and simply unwinding and tasting, smelling, seeing and feeling something different. That’s why I believe that the tourism industry will recover quickly. It could be an advantage for us that the initial focus will be on regional tourism, but things will go back to normal in the long run.
What’s it like not being able to welcome guests for so long?
How did you spend Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the semester break without guests? Did you get to enjoy it?
We made the best of the situation and enjoyed having so much time for one another. Still, we hope it was a one-time thing.
One has to or at least should try to be optimistic in these times. Things have to return to normal … but when? How difficult or easy was it for you?
Everyone imagines that hoteliers are on holiday during lockdown. But the worries about our staff, when we can open again, or the uncertain situation in the main countries our guests come from stick with us every day. That’s anything but a holiday. However, we try to keep a positive outlook and see that things are going well; that we’re healthy and we have each other.