Italian luxury wellness resort Forestis Dolomites aims for bigger slice of Indian market

Interview with Teresa Unterthiner, General Manager & Owner, Forestis
2024-05-06
/
/ New Delhi
/ Hotels
Italian luxury wellness resort Forestis Dolomites aims for bigger slice of Indian market

Teresa Unterthiner, Owner & General Manager, Forestis

Located in South Tyrol region on Italy’s northern edge, close to Austria, Forestis Dolomites is an exclusive wellness resort that has its origins in a sanatorium set up over 110 years earlier by the Austro-German Hapsburg Empire. But due to outbreak of World War I, it could never be used and was abandoned for over a century. It was only a few years ago that it was extensively renovated by Stefan Hinteregger and Teresa Unterthiner who converted it into a high-end wellness resort, which opened for business in 2020. Having established the resort as a destination in itself in the European market, now the owners are keen to attract Indian clientele, Teresa Unterthiner, tells India Outbound. The hotel is also ideal for family events like milestone anniversaries or intimate weddings or pre-wedding functions, she adds.
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What sets Forestis Dolomites apart from other luxury resorts in Europe?

We wanted to create a place to showcase how modern people of the Dolomites live and welcome the entire world. The Southern Tyrol region was always considered as a sustainable hideaway where people could reconnect their intuition and to nature so sustainability was always at the centre of attention. When we built this hotel, we put equal emphasis on sustainability to allow our guests to also connect with their innerselves and with nature.

Forestis Dolomites

Forestis Dolomites has 62 suites and is open 365 days a year

So of course the rich and diverse natural surroundings in which Forestis is located is crucial, but equally important is service and our team is always very important for us because you can build a beautiful hotel everywhere, but you really need to complete the experience by having the right team in place. We say that people book a stay at Forestis for the view the first time, but they return for the quality of experience and service provided by our team, so they return for the team.

We have 62 suites and we are open 365 days a year. Of course it is a ski-in and ski-out property, but you can also do a lot of other activities during the summer months. We are really a great destination throughout the year and we are adults only, that means welcoming guests from 14 years and older.

Which are your key markets currently?

Since Forestis was started in the middle of the pandemic, we started with a lot of domestic, but also generally European market and immediately when the borders opened, we realised that the Americans were obviously travelling back to Italy again because they did this already before the pandemic. But since then, we have seen an increase in international travellers every single month. So the main market for us still is domestic Europe, with the Germans being our top market. But the second market at the moment is the United States of America. We also get a lot of British, Italian and Swiss guests. Most of Asian countries are also coming up very quickly and very strongly. And we really love that mix of cultures in the house, because that is actually really what makes our hotel really international. It is not just an international service standard, but it is really also the guests that you see in the house that gives the extra special feeling to our place. 

Have you seen Indian travellers coming to Forestis?

We have seen a good mix of Indian guests. We started with the British Indians and then with the American Indians, and they talked about the hotel with their families and in 2023, we had a huge pick up from so many Indians, who were travelling to Europe and they included us in their itinerary. We are in a very strategic position between south and north. So many people stop a few days with us, while going from Austria to Italy or from Italy to Germany.

What share of your total guests are Indians?

Well, in terms of percentage, it is still very small as it is less than 1 pc, but even then India is within our top five markets in Asia. But we also have Koreans, Japanese, the Thai, Singapore and China, of course. So these are at the moment the other main markets in Asia for us. We have also seen a pickup in demand in the Middle East.

How is accessibility to Forestis?

Forestis Dolomites

Forestis Dolomites is 25 minutes from Brixen

The access is actually not as complicated as it may seem because many people think that the Dolomites are very hard to get to, but we are actually in a very strategic position between the North and the south of Europe, considering the closest international airport to Munich in Germany, but also Venice and Milan. Munich is 3 hours, Venice is three and a half hours and Milan is 4 hours. We have great train connections from Milan, Venice and Munich. 

You can also fly into Innsbruck by Verona from the domestic destinations. We got, for example, flights from Paris to Verona. We have flights from London to Innsbruck. So actually it is not at all hard to get to and then train travel is getting more and more important. 

It is always just the last 25 minutes when you are in Brixen that we really need to organise a car transportation to the hotel. But generally people have many different possibilities to arrive to the hotel and we can be easily combined in a northern Italy itinerary with Milan, Lake Como or Venice, but also with travel in Germany, Tyrol, Dolomites, Venice and Florence because we also have the direct trains from Florence and direct flights into Milano and Munich from India.

Where are the current Indian visitors coming from?

We saw different cities, but obviously many people come from Mumbai and Delhi, which are our biggest source markets. There were some few bookings out of some cities like Jaipur and other places. 

What is the profile of the Indian travellers?

We see a lot of couples travelling, actually honeymooners generally the average age is very young, but not only with the Indian, but all of guests. Sometimes we see multi-generational trips with grown up children. 

We have had families of six or ten people, with the different age levels doing different activities, of course because maybe that the young grandchildren they are more into the fitness and other activity while grandparents would more focus on the spa and then joining the culinary offerings. Culinary wise we are very well adjusted to the Indian market also we have a daily changing fully vegetarian and vegan menus.

What is the average duration of stay and are Indian travellers very different from your other guests?

Forestis Dolomites

Forestis Dolomites is located in South Tyrol region on Italy’s northern edge

The Indian travellers are very similar to all the international travellers with an average length of stay at the moment of three nights because we are still in the very beginning of the process of educating people about what the offerings of the region are. So, not many people book for longer stays because they don’t know if they will get bored but we really are sure that the people have something to do. First of all, everybody wants to spend at least one or two days in our spa where they can avail of different treatments. 

We have a lot of other activities on the property and outside like meditations, body stretching exercises, biking, hiking and paragliding. The closest town is 25 minutes away where we have a lot of offerings culture wise. There is a beautiful monastery that can be visited and there are also the vineyards. So, it is very beautiful, diverse and lots of different experiences, along with our traditions, culture and cuisine which is over 1,000 year old.

Do you have public transportation to your hotel?

We have very good public transportation as public buses come to the hotel every hour of the day and some of the guests really use it because it is a very scenic drive and beautiful buses with AC and they drive through the mountains and they bring you to the city centre within 25 minutes. Otherwise, we arrange private taxi service and we have guests who want to do self-driving, so we have all the different options. 

What is your expectation from India? 

One of the reasons why we decided to go on the Indian market is that the entire world is talking about the country. So it is a very vibrant market and we can see more and more Indian travellers visiting overseas. So India becomes an interesting market for us. There is so much positive energy here and we can see that something is truly building up and we want to be part of that story.

What is your target for India for 2025?

For us at the moment, more the better because it is below 1 pc, I would love to bring the Indian market to a level where the Middle East market is at the moment, about 3-5 pc. I think this is a goal that we can reach very realistically within the short time because the interest is growing so fast. Right now we are studying the market and possibly the trends will start to emerge, so it may be a still premature to give exact estimates.

But, what we also want to do is to create awareness within the Indian celebrities and the people of influence because we have those people from all over the world and we would like to have more of them from India because we realise that Forestis is a hideaway where they can really relax and we really want to be like a destination where people are looking forward to go and multiple times. 

For that we really want to create a very nice base now. And because India and Italy are both so much based on personal relation, this is going to be very, very exciting because it is through a lot of word of mouth. So people are starting to travel for us. And when I talked to our partners in the trade, for example, over the last days we had several of them which already had clients, and they told me that every time they have happy clients coming back, this helps them. So they talk to their friends about it and then their friends inquire about the agency because they have their relation with us and we know them. So it is actually very nice and I think it is a very beautiful development that we will see over the next year or two.

How will promote your property in India?

We are approaching through two different channels, both PR and sale side. Together with Heaven’s Portfolio which we chose as our representation partner, we try to reach the people throughout both articles and stays of influential people who really have reach to show many people the beauty of our property, but generally the beauty of Dolomites and for furthermore meeting people of the trade by going to travel agencies, showing them also not only here in India, but also global events like in ILTM Singapore, ILTM Cannes and we also saw that more and more of the travel trade partners from India are also going to events like Duco in Italy or Pure in Marrakesh. So it is very exciting to see how more people from this market interact globally. And for us, it is not only meeting that one time, but it is really keeping our relationship. And everything is of course aimed at people coming to the hotel. So we really are looking for the ambassadors who will stay with us and then come back to this beautiful country and tell all the people.

What is the average room rate? 

Forestis Dolomites

Guests can undertake a lot of other activities on the property and outside like meditations, body stretching exercises or biking and hiking

So I would say that the average rate throughout the year is at EUR 1300 per night. But in the month of April-May also at the end of October, in November, you can find rooms at EUR 720-750. It is also possible to privatise the property for events like small, intimate, elegant weddings and pre-wedding, post-wedding events or bachelorette or milestone anniversaries. The property has been created in a way that it is very good for a group to travel together. 

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