Based in the heart of the Alpine region of Heidiland, Grand Resort Bad Ragaz has the setting we all imagine when we think of Switzerland: mountains, superb scenery, ideal terrain for outdoor activities, it’s a wine region and even has its own healing waters – all within an hour of Zurich.
Taking advantage of this sublime setting, the original hotel, the Grand Hotel Quellenhof, celebrates its 150th anniversary next year. Since opening, a history of continued investment has led to the resort, and its reputation, growing to offer something for everyone.
Currently there four hotels, seven restaurants, a café and a sushi takeaway, a casino and two golf courses. The two separate spas include Thermal Spa and the famous Tamina Therme public thermal baths with its “precious healing waters”. There’s also an on-site Medical Health Center with 30-plus doctors focusing on everything from sports injuries and nutrition to fertility and mental health.
CEO Patrick Vogler, says that each part of the resort is viewed as an independent profit centre. Although this has not always been the case, each of the businesses are currently firing on all cylinders. Occupancy is 65 per cent and the resort has a loyal following: some of its guests have been coming for more than 50 years.
While keen to look after these customers, Vogler also has attracting new audiences as one of his key aims. He says: “We have many loyal guests who’ve been with us for decades, but now it’s time to acquire newer, younger guests, so we’re realising projects with this in mind.”
Vogler has been with the organisation since 2008 and, as CFO, worked closely with his predecessor, Peter P Tschirky, to pilot the resort through tough economic times. This was achieved both through investment, innovation and seeking new audiences, a strategy which Vogler will continue to take forward.
Over recent years, since the credit crunch, the resort has seen a shift in its audience, from predominantly Swiss and German guests to those from emerging markets like Russia, Middle East, and the US. Being flexible to change, despite its size, has been key to the success of Bad Ragaz, and is something Vogler will be building on.
Three generation families
After taking over as CEO in July 2017, one of Vogler’s first tasks was to look at the brand and web presence. “The launch of a new website and a rebrand has been a big focus, because I believe that having a strong brand and a clear, engaging website is crucial in gaining new customers,” he says. “Elderly guests frequently come to us for our clinical services – more than half of the guests use the medical facility somehow – but we’re actively looking for ways to hook in new audiences who are not necessarily focused on medical health.”
One of the new audiences to be identified is the three generation family market, which are being catered for with a family spa launched in May. This is a wise move: finding audiences who will again stay with them for decades. “We’re keen to open our resort up to three generations and have done so in response both to guests asking us and identifying a market demand,” says Vogler.
Created by Swiss interior designer Claudio Carbone, the 550sq m (5,920sq ft) family spa is open to children up to the age of 16 and offers treatments like Bling Bling Nails, Sweet Honey Massage, using lavender oil, and Happy Feet, a foot bath and massage finished off with a pedicure including tiny gemstones. The bathing zones range from 0.2m to 1.3m deep and offer many exciting activities such as Aqua Latin Dance, mermaid swimming lessons, swimming classes for babies and toddlers and a weekly kids’ party. The overall theme picks up on the rustic rock faces of the local Tamina Gorge, the source of the resort’s thermal waters, and a wooden Alpine hut is a reminder of the Heidi story.
Additionally there are four new family rooms, with views of the Heidiland region, to accommodate two adults and three children. The play facilities are currently being upgraded, with the addition of a billiards room and a kitchen with facilities for 50 children to cook.
Spotlight on spa
The Thermal Spa is a major draw for the resort with many guests coming primarily to use its facilities which include an extensive Sauna World and three pools. There are also 19 treatment rooms, the new family spa, one private spa suite and a dermatology practise.
“Many of our guests don’t want to go and see their doctor who will prescribe medication, but are looking for other solutions which can help them destress and bring their lives into balance,” says spa director, Lucia Bergmann. “What sets us apart from other spas is our bespoke programmes, which are two to five days long and help our guests to relax and bring their bodies back into balance. We offer a break from the daily routine, which addresses the body, mind and soul. No other spas in Switzerland offer these types of programmes.”
Developed in conjunction with French bodycare specialists, Altearah Bio, the Ragazer spa programmes (see p90) are the most popular offering at the spa, incorporating consultations, treatments and, depending on the package, PT sessions, yoga, pilates, floating sessions or aquafit.
“At the outset, the therapists meet with the guests to design an individual programme for them. As well as one or two treatments a day, they will have some form of exercise and a relaxation session,” explains Bergmann. “We’re a big team and constantly communicate with each other so we can take a holistic approach to each client. The programme is a blend of medicine and wellness, and we give them advice and tools to take away.”
One of the challenges which the spa deals with is responding to the demands of different audiences and the team recognises different preferences among guests from Europe, Russia and the Middle East. One of the trends Bergmann has noticed is an increase in demand for beauty treatments for men, including facials, manicures and pedicures.
The next major project on Vogler’s to do list is next year’s CHF40m (US$42m, €34m, £30m) refurbishment of the original Grand Hotel Quellenhof, on its 150th anniversary. Formal and traditional in comparison to its contemporary spa suites, the refurb will combine the history and elegance with a more modern look.
“All 106 rooms will have air conditioning added, the technology will be updated to improve internet connections, there will be more space on the ground floor for the restaurant and it will house the main reception for the resort,” says Vogler.
Another project on the drawing board is the addition of a football pitch, so the resort can build on its success in treating its elite sports clientele. Among its customers it currently counts the Swiss Olympic teams and Saudi Arabia’s football team, UK club West Ham United and Germany’s Borussia Dortmund. The addition of a football field will attract more top international teams to keep their athletes in peak condition – and no doubt drive more business to the medical centre.
Vogler wants Grand Resort Bad Ragaz to become Europe’s leading hotel in wellbeing and medical health and is confident they have the tools to achieve this. The medical spa, and its breadth of expertise, and the heritage and mythical magic of the healing waters are top of the list in terms of the resort’s main attractions, complemented by its innovation in terms of programming, such as a sleep diagnostics programme and continual investment in keeping its facilities at the top end.
“We have a successful combination of a variety of high standard businesses operating together, extensive medical expertise and thermal waters,” says Vogler. “With the continuous development of new business ideas, we want to secure, and deepen our position as the leading wellbeing and medical resort in Europe.”