Caring for a Sweet Legacy Caring for a Sweet Legacy

Caring for a Sweet Legacy

16. 03.2023

Vienna – a lady embodying the charm of the Habsburg monarchy welcomes admirers to the city's beauties. Among those is the delicious sweet legacy – the Sachertorte. The creator of this unique cake was Franz Sacher, whose son built Hotel Sacher – a worthy temple for the sought-after delicacy. Franz Sacher would certainly be proud of his legacy today, because the kingdom of the Sacher family is being looked after by a very efficient and enterprising lady, Elisabeth Gürtler. She sensitively upholds the family legacy and the Sacher name, which has become a recognised brand of prestigious hotels. In addition to Vienna, a Sacher Hotel is also found in Salzburg and even as the attractive Sacher Alpine Resort in Seefeld.

You are a successful woman in a top business environment. Can this environment still surprise you after so many successful years?
After a number of years, you usually have a fair amount of experience in dealing with special requests, new demands, unusual situations. Nevertheless nowadays the challenges of inflation, a problematic labour market and rising energy costs are very demanding and cannot be solved merely by long experience, but need an innovative approach.

Did you dream as a child of managing such esteemed companies as those which today carry your name? What was your childhood dream, what did you want to be?
From my childhood until my marriage, I dreamt of spending my life with horses and dogs in the countryside. To work in the hospitality business was definitely not what I really regarded as being attractive in my life. I spent a lot of time with the training of my beloved horses and also was part of the Austrian Dressage Team. So, it was no wonder that I met my first husband when competing in dressage events. By chance, he also was the owner and CEO of the Sacher Hotel in Vienna.

You studied Economics, how can women relate to this environment? 
Yes, I studied Economics because my father, as a highly successful entrepreneur running diverse businesses, had no son, just two daughters and expected us not only to finish high school with distinction, but also to study either Economics or Law in order to be well prepared for working in his company. Well, I decided on Economics.

What led you from numbers into the area of hotel services and even in such a renowned hotel as the Hotel Sacher in Vienna undoubtedly is?
As I mentioned, my first husband was not only a passionate horseman, but also the owner of the Sacher in Vienna. Moreover, my father being mainly in the grain business, also owned a 5-star luxury hotel in Seefeld. So I was confronted with all the various hospitality matters already while a student and got even more involved after being married to Peter Guertler. My husband quite often discussed future projects and matters of staff supervision with me.

How did your life change when you became the leading force of the Sacher phenomenon?
Peter and I got divorced in 1983, after having been married for more than 10 years. At that time, our children were 8 and 4 years old. In 1990, Peter passed away after having remarried a second and a third time. In his last Will, he decided that I, as the mother of his only two children, should take over and run the hotel business.
This was a big change, but also a big chance in my life – feeling responsible for the Sacher in Vienna and the newly acquainted Österreichischer Hof in Salzburg made it evident to me that the wonderful equestrian time of spending hours with my beloved horses had to come to an end. I concentrated fully on running the hotel business, increasing income, reducing costs, improving quality and strengthening the reputation of the brand name in order to make it increasingly become  a synonym for sophisticated, family-run and typically Austrian hospitality. For this reason, the "Sacher Cafés" in Graz and in Innsbruck were opened, the production of the "Original Sachertorte" was removed from the Sacher Hotel to an area closer to the Airport, offering more space and enabling more efficient production of a greater quantity of cakes. In 2005, the Hotel Sacher in Vienna was enlarged by 3 more floors with 48 more bedrooms and a high-end Spa on top of the building. Also the whole corner at Kärntnerstrasse was added to the Sacher for better visibility in the city.

In the Czech Republic, Hotel Sacher in Vienna is primarily associated with the famous cake. However, it certainly provides much more to its visitors. Could you tell our readers about the hotel, or rather hotels – the Sacher Hotels in Vienna and also in Salzburg? 
Yes, the Sacher brand name is mainly associated with the cake, as the Original Sachertorte was already produced in 1832, whereas the Hotel Sacher only opened in 1876. The Original Sachertorte is not only a souvenir for many tourists in Vienna, but also is bought by many Austrian companies as a typical Austrian gift at various occasions and dispatched all over the world to their business partners. We regard the cake to be a kind of door-opener to getting acquainted with the Sacher brand. Nevertheless, in the centre of all our efforts during recent years has been the aim of increasing the profitability of the Sacher Hotels in Vienna and in Salzburg. Major, cost-intensive renovations to the properties, as well as the establishment of the Sacher School of Excellence for the training of staff made it possible for both hotels to achieve top occupancies and to be ranked on the top of major ranking lists, such as Travel & Leisure and Condé Nast.

Recently, there has been a significant transformation of the hotel group in which Sacher Hotels operate. What kind of change was it and what does the group, whose name is under the umbrella of the "Sacher" brand, offer its customers?
In 2015, being 65 years old, I passed on the operation of the Sacher Group to my children, Alexandra and Georg and my son-in-law, Matthias Winkler, a highly capable manager. I kept being the CEO of the Holding Company together with my daughter Alexandra. At this time, in order not to give up the operation as a whole, I decided to work on the Astoria, our little luxury resort hotel in Seefeld which I had inherited from my father. I invested and enlarged this gem not only by 24 super-luxurious suites, but also by a state-of-the-art Spa. In September 2022, I felt that the Astoria was ready in all aspects to join the Sacher Group: on 15th September, we announced that the Astoria was to be part of the Sacher Group and from then on would be promoted as the Alpin Resort Sacher. A big step for me, my children, the staff of the former Astoria, as well as for the Sacher management! From now on, Sacher will also be active in the Resort business! Starting on 1st January, the Alpin Resort Sacher will also become a member of Leading Hotels of the World – as the Sacher in Vienna & the Sacher in Salzburg have been for a long time!
The Sacher Group will be able to offer its esteemed guests perfectly organised journeys from Vienna to Salzburg and to Seefeld /Tirol (being only 20km from Innsbruck), also ensuring the transfer from/to airports, train stations or by limousine. This means the luxury Sacher brand will be available from the east of Austria to the very west of Austria and our guests can enjoy the Sacher feeling with its high standards and top quality all over Austria on their whole journey.

How does a hard-working woman like you find time for relaxation? How do you rest?
I do enjoy working and setting myself goals. To reach them makes me feel content and relaxed!
Besides I am a dog-lover – I spend a lot of time with my beloved Jack Russell, Lady Ella. She needs my whole attention and somehow replaces my children being grown up and having left home. Furthermore, I still enjoy watching horse training, dressage competitions and chats with passionate riders.

What do you see as the future of the hotel and café environment in Austria, and in the world in general? 
Affluent travellers expect a hotel to be a home from home that meets all their needs. Of course, these expectations differ greatly, depending on the travel purpose! Business travellers do not spend a lot of time in the hotel, they have meetings, need perfectly functioning time-saving digital facilities and a perfectly assisting concierge service. Regardless of this, they expect their accommodation to offer the maximum comfort. Leisure guests visiting cities usually do not spend much time within the hotel – they have a tight programme, filled with sightseeing of cultural attractions. They expect to get the best recommendations for places to see and where to eat, they expect their hotel to make available the best tickets and to organise all transfers. Problems that might occur have to be solved individually.

On the other hand, guests spending their holiday in our Alpin Resort Sacher usually want to relax, recharge their batteries, enjoy with all their senses and to relax by spending time on indoor or outdoor activities, either alone or with their partner/family. They spend time in the vast Spa area and enjoy treatments. They appreciate the personal touch of a family-run property with a host caring personally for their well-being. The daily programme offered by the Resort comprises a variety of activities. Of course the core of our "quality assurance" also includes the quality of all meals – starting with an extensive breakfast and ending with a 7-course gourmet dinner. I regard it as my personal duty to bring guests together, with regard for their matching lifestyles, their activities and their interests. They then usually enjoy having a chat at the bar, while sipping a glass of Champagne. Such acquaintances are often the start of ongoing friendships!

In the present, extremely stressful life, people invest a lot of money in their well-being, in boosting their health, in anti-aging, but most importantly, they invest their limited and precious spare time when deciding on a holiday with us! This means we – the hoteliers – owe our guests the ultimate effort to make this time worth spending at our properties. It is a duty, but an even greater and fulfilling pleasure to do this!


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