The pioneer

When Andreas Wieser came to Tyrol in 1984, the Lanserhof above Innsbruck was still a bus hotel. He threw himself into the job with youthful zest, according to Wieser, worked with doctors and researchers at the University of Innsbruck and set up a network with medical experts, psychologists and therapists. Nowadays, the Lanserhof is regularly named the “best medical resort” and the LANS Med Concept is also practised at Lanserhof Tegernsee and LANS Medicum Hamburg. Wieser sold his shares in Lanserhof in 2012. The “visionary gallerist” has since then been creating new concepts for health, medicine, new awareness and social evolution.

You developed the Robinson Club on Katschberg in Carinthia in 1979. Apart from Club Med, it was the first time a winter programme was offered with entertainment, sports and health. But how did you end up in Carinthia, coming from Voralberg?

Andreas Wieser: I studied Tourism and Hospitality in Lausanne. I soon developed a certain aversion to the bombastic five-star superior hotels. This is why a Robinson Club was the ideal place for me, it was all about entertainment, exercise and joi de vivre – as it was at that time, anyway. We adapted the summer concept, which had been successful in the clubs in the south, in Carinthia for winter and developed the first winter club in the Alps – Franz Klammer, the downhill Olympian winner in 1976, had also been involved. It was a challenging task: provide entertainment, winter sports and hospitality with a motivated team. So, we waved goodbye to the rigid hotel-holiday-ski-school concept and introduced entertainment.

Was there a health focus at that time, too?

Andreas Wieser: I used to run everyday, one or two hours, and I started getting more and more interested in health and awareness and used my own body as a guinea pig to find out what kind of lifestyles could be ideal for a healthy and stable psyche as well as illness prevention.

The big leap to Tyrol, to Lanserhof above Innsbruck, came in 1984, then a...

Andreas Wieser: ... bus hotel. Lanserhof had been built at the beginning of the 1970s during the gold rush frenzy. The owners Eichberger/Oberhofer believed there was a great tourism opportunity at the foot of Patscherkofel. At that time I was in contact with Erich Rauch, a doctor and the “fasting pope” in the German-speaking region. He was the medical director of the golf hotel at Wörther lake in Carinthia, “The FX Mayr Health Centre”. Rauch had a large number of guests from South Germany and Switzerland whereupon he also helped us in Lans to develop a “western health destination”. Together with Martin Winkler, a doctor and holistic medical practitioner, we then built up the Lanserhof institute, which is known around the world today. I invested the 

capital I had in classifieds and adverts in the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” newspaper – the “pit stop for managers”. 15, 16 guests booked straight away and were very enthusiastic about the offer and the team. This led to a snowball effect and attracted many more guests.

Well-being in Tyrol at that time was still in its infancy. How did the industry react to Lanserhof?

Andreas Wieser: Very few at that time had had any experience of such a wide range of offers for regenerating. It changed slowly when the first spa hotels raised their profile in the market. Josef Stock in the Ziller valley, Posthotel Achenkirch from Karl Reiter, Franz Pirktl with Resort Schwarz, these were the first few who successfully started with well-being.

It was in the mid-80s when a group of hoteliers in Tyrol came together to discuss their experiences with well-being, a trend from the USA that had not yet reached Tyrol. Franz Pirktl was there from the very beginning. In the mid-1980s, on the Mieminger Plateau, he had to contend with a problem that was serious for a traditional Tyrolean winter destination – it didn’t snow on the sunny highlands terrace above the Upper Inn valley. Pirktl reacted with a “few ancillary offers – sauna, swimming pool, steam bath as well as simple well-being programmes such as dew walking and Kneipp cures.” At about the same time, Barbara and Josef Stock in Finkenberg added “a few rooms” to their restaurant “Bratpfandl” and turned it into Sporthotel Stock. Wolfgang Kostenzer took over his parent’s business on Lake Achen and started developing new strategies in the Alpenrose hotel. The consultants Josef Knabl and Reinhard Schrott were also involved in the hotel business. In 1992, they launched the Association of Tyrolean Wellness Hotels and began to position themselves as well-being specialists by developing innovative products and carrying out creative marketing activities – even beyond Tyrol’s borders, therefore renamed in 1995 as “Wellness Hotels Austria” and operating under the name “Best Alpine Wellness Hotels” since 2015. 19 family-run spa resorts are members and guarantee a high-quality standard as well as a holistic concept for the mind, body and soul.

When you leased and took over Lanserhof, Lans and Igls nearby were in permanent hibernation.

Andreas Wieser: That’s right, the good times were over up there, the Olympics was history. We set out full of youthful zest, we literally knocked on all the doors of the newspapers and industry to increase our profile. We did research with different departments at the University of Innsbruck so that what we were doing at Lanserhof was scientifically sound. Many of these findings and discussions have contributed to a broader viewpoint of today’s holistic medical practitioners and their job description.

Why a new job description?

Andreas Wieser: You learn relatively little about how to prevent illnesses for a long and healthy life during medical training. Doctors are mainly trained to help in emergencies, to repair and to guide patients with their recuperation in a short amount of time. It was important to us that doctors, who accompany our guests as partners, address healthy ageing, resources, nutrition, exercise, relaxation, regeneration, stable ways to prevent illnesses, based on genetics, predispositions and their social environment.

How did you nurture these ideas?

Andreas Wieser: The stressful years of the so-called information and knowledge society followed, caused by the acceleration of time and increased complexity. This set us the challenge of working out the causes of the stress syndrome that was frequently observed at that time. We began by asking ourselves, which answers modern humans needed in the areas of metabolism, psyche, exercise, awareness and social issues. We then set up an interdisciplinary network with various medical experts, psychologists and therapists. That was unheard-of in the market then and you could say it was “the decisive breakthrough”. Guests were able to understand the connection between their work-life balance and the necessary changes to their lifestyle quicker.

Andreas Wieser and his team at Lanserhof started to develop a symbiosis of state-of-the-art medicine, natural medicine, recognised treatment methods and the latest scientific expertise in a pleasant holiday atmosphere – the result was the LANS Med Concept. Building on the findings of the Austrian doctor F. X. Mayr, it’s about detoxing, purifying and deacidifying the body so that it can regenerate itself and respond to different treatments. The concept combines this cleansing with preventative and regenerative medicine, physical and movement therapies, relaxation, stress management and a scientifically sound beauty programme as well as balanced nutrition programme. We work closely with the University of Innsbruck, whereby we mainly focus on the radiological and diagnostic tests. In the last few years, the Lanserhof has been regularly named, nationally and internationally, the “best medical resort” and the LANS Med Concept is now also practised at Lanserhof Tegernsee and LANS Medicum Hamburg.

You have been interested in health matters for so many years. What then is health?

Andreas Wieser: After I sold my company shares in 2012 to Christian Harisch, Anton Pletzer und Stefan Rutter, I went on to do research work in Graz and finished a PHD degree in health sciences. I realised that health is not simply the absence of an illness, but also the best foundation I could have to be able to master my everyday life freely, creatively, constructively. This state can lead to a highest “wholeness”. We can’t reach this

with recreational competitive sports, which many senior managers think they have to do. Nor with so-so spa treatments and pampering to extend our self-pity. Nowadays, we are increasingly overwhelmed by complexities, forms of depressiveness, narcissistic developments, isolation, disturbed biorhythms, emotional dreams and senselessness. When we then combine that with recreational competitive sports or recreational stress, then we have to ask ourselves whether it is not a misunderstood form of prevention.

What would be the alternatives?

Andreas Wieser: A new field of research is psychoneuroimmunology, it analyses a person’s complex, highly dynamic, interconnected system, the dynamism of biopsychosocial processes. It’s an interdisciplinary approach involving medicine, biology and neuroscience. We are living in the creative reality of a highly intelligent, universal spirit, in a hologram of energetically transformed information. We are aware of growing recognition, healing and insights into one’s own origin. In our culture, consciousness and co-creation have almost fallen into obscurity and, therefore, need to be rediscovered. The growing international yoga movement has also shown this.

Can conclusions be drawn from trends such as yoga for well-being tourism in the future?

Andreas Wieser: Yes, it’s our responsibility to provide not just successful diagnostic and therapeutic measures, but to also increasingly take care of the physical-emotional-social development and improvement because these are some of the requirements for stable preventative measures and regulation. This means it needs advanced concepts. From the repair mechanic to “feel-good and improvement medicine” for health as a happy element of life. Which is what we’re bringing to Tyrol

Why exactly Tyrol?

Andreas Wieser: Compared to other regions, Tyrol has one of the highest concentrations of spa companies and spa hotels. Customers today know a lot about what is supposedly good for their health and for relaxing from the media. Consequently, their expectations of a health destination or health tourism services is high. It needs inspired people who want to keep improving themselves. The facilities have to be run by people who themselves live the principles of health and healing. Customers expect their host to also be a friend, a coach, someone who encourages and inspires them, tells them how they can reconnect with their health, happiness and sense of life.

Do you see any other developments?

Andreas Wieser: Climatic, epidemiological and tourism factors promote the development of new and innovative regional health strategies and health tourism services. Less snow, shorter ski seasons, an increasingly diversified health market, increasing life expectancy and the rapid rise in chronic illnesses underline these market trends for health tourism.

Is Tyrol able to react to these kinds of market trends?

Andreas Wieser: Tyrol has medical expertise. Compared to other Alpine regions, you will find hosts here who still enjoy the hospitality business. Employees who are enthusiastic. You will find teams here who communicate with the guests on an equal footing. The workplace has to be made so attractive and exciting that people will enjoy working and being creative there.

What else does Tyrol offer apart from medical expertise and its role as a host?

Andreas Wieser: Tyrol is predestined for nomadic urbanites who have lost touch with their inner selves. Tyrol has different kinds of nature, ranging from barren mountains through to forested areas. With gigantic adventure and open spaces. Two doctors, Wolfgang Schobersberger and Egon Humpeler, carried out a study on the relationship between altitude, conscious exercise outdoors and their influence on the metabolism, nervous system, regeneration and awareness. Then there’s the “biophilia effect”. Japanese researchers have proven that trees release terpene and bioflavonoids, which are said to boost the immune system. There’s a lot of forest in Tyrol. As well as mountains, with their grandeur, and towns oozing culture, which you want to lose yourself in.

You just mentioned nature and towns. What about the people?

Andreas Wieser: Studies have shown that the locals in Tyrol feel like they are the healthiest people in Austria and that they even live a few years longer then the rest of Austria. Which shows just how healthy life can be in the mountains and nature.

But you also need suitable concepts.

Andreas Wieser: Sure. It’s a well-known fact that 50 per cent of the guests in Austria state health as being the reason for their holiday decision. Tourism service providers, therefore, will need to invest more in innovative and intelligent offers and concepts. Experts from the University of Innsbruck and the Private University UMIT in Tyrol could do research on areas that modern holidaymakers need and are looking for to improve themselves.

Where do modern holidaymakers actually like to go?

Andreas Wieser: The uncertainty factors in far away destinations, which can only be reached by plane, are increasing, which in turn will make the nearby Alpine regions more attractive again. This provides Tyrol with new opportunities for the future. Travel is going to change and this might lead to a renaissance of holidaying locally. After the boom of the post-war years, it would be the ideal opportunity for Tyrol to take up an intelligent stance – to create modern programmes that would bring guests closer to nature, awareness and joi de vivre instead of offering them the traditional images of Tyrol. 

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