The first stay during the Tyrol trip took place in the Stern in Obsteig, on the sunny plateau. I was allowed to interview the host René Föger and was initiated into the lived concept and his plans for the future. Even more: the latest project was accepted on the construction site. But more on this below in the text.
The star lives according to the guiding principle "I look at Tues. You look at me!" - which in Tyrolean terms means that you treat your counterpart with care, respect and care. It's not just about fellow human beings, but also about nature.
What was or is your motivation behind the star?
On the one hand, of course, René wants to preserve his family's legacy and continue it with all honor. Because the Föger family has been hosts for over 500 years and in 1907 they took over the existing Stern inn. The family coat of arms goes back to the year 1509. It is obvious that it is particularly important to him that he looks after it in the interests of his family. When he took over the hotel at the age of only 27, the star had already done a lot in terms of sustainability, but not nearly as much as it does today.
René reorganized the company through a lot of commitment, which was often accompanied by waivers and existential worries. But true to the motto “if you don't dare, you won't win”, he follows his gut feeling and develops into a host with heart and soul. The corona crisis in particular showed him how much he likes to spend time with guests and is therefore very happy that he can now welcome guests again.
The star is developing with a focus on the future and the spirit of the times
On the other hand, he thinks it's great that the star has been able to develop in a future-oriented manner over the years. Employees represent long-term partners and we all pull together. Especially when it comes to integrating even more sustainability into everyday hotel life. A major project in recent years was that the kitchen switched to climate-neutral dishes. In concrete terms, this meant that everyone looked at where the individual ingredients and foods in the dishes come from. Subsequently, regional alternatives were looked for and fortunately found. These make it possible to create modern dishes without having to do without. In addition, so many emissions can be saved.
The alternatives found are, for example, flax seeds instead of chia seeds, beetroot instead of avocado and, last but not least, berries that grow in the garden instead of importing goji berries from distant countries. It is particularly important to René that the entire team is involved in changes and, above all, is informed about them. Because only in this way can they convey new things to the guests.
The 35-strong team behind the star is also a motivation for René. He enjoys being the boss because he loves to challenge and encourage his employees and to respond to their needs. A few years ago it was therefore a matter of concern that he could employ her all year round.
What do you advise our readers: what can you do specifically for a better future?
René doesn't want to ask himself to give advice to others. But what I find so impressive is that you can learn a lot from René and the way he runs the hotel - as a host: in and also as a guest: in. For him, sustainability is a process, there is no such thing as perfection. For him, it is more about using the means you have to drive positive change. And at the same time to become aware of one's responsibility towards society and the environment.
Playfully to more awareness
When staying at the Stern, guests have the opportunity to playfully learn through a challenge how small things and new habits can have a positive effect on their personal climate balance in everyday life. It is particularly important to him that they understand that a (more) sustainable lifestyle has nothing to do with a loss of enjoyment. Because it is about creating awareness in order to understand the consequences of action and to point out climate-friendly alternatives. His personal goal and motivation at the same time is that the suggestions are implemented after the time in the star.
The climate game provides tips on the subject of nutrition, waste separation, plastic avoidance, means of transport and excursions. In detail, the game works like this: Upon arrival, the guests receive a game sheet for the CO2 climate check-in, which they can use to determine their type of journey Climate calculator to calculate. The star compensates for the stay of the guests, but the guests can also compensate their arrival and departure with two selected climate protection projects that have been awarded the Gold Standard: an international one in Ethiopia and a regional one that reforests the larch and orchard meadows not far from the hotel. During the stay, stars can now be collected, which reward good, sustainable action, such as leaving the car behind during the time in the star - so even the youngest visitors can learn in a playful way. When checking out, guests submit the game sheet and, if there are enough stars, they can look forward to a small gift.
How do travel and sustainability fit together for you?
For René, travel and sustainability go hand in hand. In his opinion, it is only important that the three pillars of sustainability, consisting of ecology, economy and the social, are equally taken into account. He ensures the balance for the star by deliberately questioning and considering himself over and over again, whereby he can improve himself and the activities of the hotel even further.
Ecology in the star
In terms of ecology, for example, action is taken by buying all parts of slaughtered animals and offering them to the guests in dishes. The new kitchen concept “Mit Butz und Stingl” stands for a zero-waste approach, in which attempts are made to avoid leftover food, especially during processing. Because for René it is not an option to only sell precious parts of the animals and not to buy or not to use the rest; if meat is already being served, then completely. In addition, the season goes on: Fruit and vegetables are served freshly harvested and berries, for example, are woken up for winter. For this reason, the menu changes weekly.
René is also committed to ensuring that no new ski areas are opened up, but he is in favor of using the existing ones. Ultimately, these also represent Austria's cultural asset and make the mountains with nature and fresh air tangible for the guests. However, it is important to him that noise and light are not further polluted.
Economy in the star
The pillar of the economy means that René is responsible for sustainable management. That means ensuring that your employees have a secure job and that the company pays off as such. It is also important to René to support regional value creation, which is why he works with various partner companies. Guests, the hotel, the staff and service providers in the region are in harmony - this is how an active cultural exchange can take place. René was also faced with an economic question when it came to making an e-car available to his guests during their stay. But in the end he didn't have to think twice, and so the guests can look forward to charging stations and an e-mobile that they can borrow for a fee and in this way, if necessary, have a first experience with an electric vehicle, any fear of contact is reduced in this way.
Social in the star
René is actively involved in the community of Obsteig and the wider area. He is happy to take care of the well-being of the employees and ensures that the hotel business fits into the life of the village. The construction site mentioned above can be cited as an excellent example. An eco-indoor swimming pool is currently being built. This is primarily available to guests, but also to local residents: indoor and swimming classes.
How do you build an ecological indoor swimming pool?
The idea of an ecological indoor swimming pool had been with him for a long time and then he decided to implement it, although the accommodation was not allowed to receive guests due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But René believes in the idea and that it will be worthwhile for everyone involved in the long term. The Sternentaucher eco indoor swimming pool dispenses with additional land use and is laid out underground; the indoor swimming pool will have a green area that will enhance the organic area, accommodate beehives and give nature a piece of space back.
The aim is that the indoor pool should use the same energy or less electricity; 100 percent of this is obtained from renewable and regional energy. A solar thermal system is installed on the roof and two feed lines for heat recovery are installed. Even if not everything can be holistically sustainable, we remember that the journey is the goal for René, he is aware of the various parameters and names them transparently: Despite the use of the latest filter technologies, the water consumption is relatively high, chlorine comes in one does not pass by consciously using a recycled product, and not all building materials are sustainable, even if, for example, recycled concrete has been used.
See you soon amol!
René impresses me with his fresh manner and his thinking, which has his finger on the pulse and determines all his actions. I also find it remarkable how critically he questions himself and the star and lets others participate in the process. I know one thing for sure: you can learn something from René! I am happy to visit the completed indoor pool and am already looking forward to it.