If some of you out there believe there’s no such thing anymore as the classical hospitality career, think again! Christina Riegler, Head of Project Development, discovered her love for the hospitality industry early on and had a clear goal in mind. Read the whole story here in our Face-to-Face Interview.
1. So tell us, how did you get your start in the hospitality industry?
Unlike other people, I discovered my love for hospitality early on and – I must admit – I really didn’t feel like going to school any more [laughs]. So my career in hospitality started at the tender age of 15 with an apprenticeship as hotel and hospitality assistant in Wiener Neustadt in Lower Austria.
2. And how did it go on from there? At which point did your career really take off?
The reception desk definitely was my passion at first. I really felt at home there. After my apprenticeship, I worked at the reception of the Hotel Sacher in the wonderful town of Baden near Vienna. At the same time, I also began studying tourism on the side. Then, at the age of 23, I was offered the chance to take over the position of General Manager on an interim basis for three months; it didn’t take me long to make my decision and to say “yes”. Three months turned into five whole years – a time which I remember fondly.
3. What happened then? Did you reorient yourself?
Not at all. Although I did apply as general manager at Vienna House, in the end I was offered a position in the project department. And that’s where I’m still at today – as Head of Project Development, but with the same passion and commitment for the job as if it were my first day.
4. Can you give us an idea what your job is like? After all, this isn’t a very usual field.
My team and I are responsible for hotel openings and acquisitions. It begins with the first locational analysis and goes all the way to preopening support. Two to three years later, you hopefully have the opening behind you – and have popped open one or two bottles of champagne [laughs]. In between, there are many very interesting details to deal with, from planning the rooms to the choice of materials with the interior designer to working hand in hand with the architects, project managers and the hotel team… I could go on and on forever. In brief: this is where everything comes together. If you’re like me and have a certain enthusiasm for new destinations, you can’t help but love your job, can you?
5. That sounds really exciting. Surely you’ve got a good story for us.
[Thinks for a moment] Of course I do! Seven months before the opening of the andel’s by Vienna House Berlin, the project manager called me and said he was waiting for the delivery of a kitchen floor cleaning machine for a 4 m² cleaning room so they could finish sealing up the room. I was flabbergasted – but the whole thing was quickly cleared up. Let’s just say it was his way of informing me that we had forgotten to plan a door for this room [laughs].
6. You probably look at some of the hotels as your own flesh and blood, don’t you? Which properties would you recommended our readers in particular?
Hmm, that’s a difficult question. All of our destinations have something special about them. But I would say: Berlin and Munich! Berlin, because it is a hip and trendy city that is constantly reinventing itself. If you need a tip for the evening or for the weekend, just head for the nearest currywurst stand – you’ll always hear the best stories there! Munich has become like a second home for me. It is a very elegant city, with good food and it is easy to reach from Vienna. A must is to check out the surfers on the famous standing wave before heading to the Golden Bar in the Haus der Kunst. That’s an evening bar – and you don’t see the wave from there. ;-).
7. With so many openings, acquisitions and projects, do you have any time for yourself?
Let’s just say, I can combine my favourite hobby – travelling – with my career. When I travel for pleasure, I love to go to northern Europe. Everything is so much more relaxed there, not so hectic. I can definitely recommend Oslo and Copenhagen! Otherwise, friends and family are very important to me. When I have time, I go back home to Styria and visit my family and my niece Katharina. For that weekend, someone else is in charge – namely, the little princess [laughs].
So that it doesn’t sound too conventional: in my free time, I also managed to complete my studies in real estate at Danube University Krems – a very fitting enrichment for my job.
Thank you for the interview!