After 30 years in tourism, Marion has made her dream a reality – her dream of running her own holiday accommodation. In what was a dilapidated building, she has created a premium apartment complex that focuses on mindfulness. We asked Marion how guests can enjoy their freedom at Freiraum.
Marion, you’ve worked in tourism for 30 years. What inspired you to try something new at the age of 50?
I realised a long time ago that tourism is my passion. Being a host fulfils me every single day. I love making people happy with small gestures like tips for bike tours or freshly baked plum streusel cake. Despite that, I toyed with the idea for a long time before I finally made the leap. I always wanted to run my own holiday accommodation the way I wanted, because working for other people, I always put in all my time, all my energy, only to come up against obstacles. Now, with my own business, I can put a lot of things into practice and make them a reality, and I can give my guests the gift of mindfulness, which I think is appropriate and important. Hospitality isn’t just a word to me, so it requires time.
You transformed a dilapidated building into a premium apartment complex. Can you tell us a bit more about that, how the idea came about and how you put it into action?
I’ve always had a weakness for old buildings – I’m really into traditions. The old building had charm and would now be over 100 years old, but structurally it was in bad condition. Because I wanted to create a modern apartment complex, it would have been impossible to retain the house. So from the beginning, building from scratch was the only option. Then it was down to the purely practical aspects so we could cover the needs of as many guests as possible. It was important to me to build apartments with two bedrooms so families would also have enough space to unwind, or girlfriends could stay together in one apartment but with separate sleeping quarters. Accessibility was a top priority, as guests with limitations should also enjoy well-being, so we started with an automatic entrance door and continued with lifts to all floors, and two apartments are fully adapted for disabled guests.
And where did the name come from?
I really didn’t want the name of the apartment building to include words like crown, eagle or sun, which you’ll find in every town around here. After many discussions and getting to know my graphic designer, a young woman from the Bregenzerwald region, she suggested an initial idea, which was “freiraum” [meaning “freedom” or “free space”]. I was immediately drawn to the name so we stuck with it and didn’t have to think about it again.
Since summer 2023, your apartments have offered an à la carte breakfast service, as well as partnerships with award-winning chefs from the region. How did these collaborations come about and what can guests expect?
Since this past summer, we have offered our guests the option of ordering breakfast or bread rolls, seven days a week, right to the door of their apartment. Our guests order exactly what they want every day before 6.00 pm directly with our suppliers. Regionality is really important here. For people who are less inclined to cook for themselves or more into fast food, I wanted to provide a high-quality alternative to the restaurants in the area, so it made sense to add the services of an award-winning chef from a neighbouring town to our offering. They guarantee where the basic ingredients come from, and even prepare the dishes themselves. So there are ready-made meals in glass dishes that just need to be heated up, amazing soups, vegetarian meals and a small number of options for meat eaters. To provide our guests with a sweet treat, we have a small range of excellent ice creams from Kolibri called Soulcream, and we also have our homemade cakes. The smell of baking in the building is enough to tempt anyone!
A key focus of what you offer is mindfulness seminars, nutrition and meditation, especially in the low season. What can guests look forward to in this regard?
Our mindfulness retreat is very dear to me because these days many people feel the need for it, as I did. Because of the hectic nature of everyday life, the kilos crept up on me, with delicious food and simply too much of it being the main culprit. In addition to side effects like constant fatigue, sluggishness and an increasing desire for the next calorie fix, at some point I just didn’t feel well anymore. Then, thanks to a friend, I heard about vital substances and a form of nutrition that really made sense to me. Essentially, it’s a case of not restricting your diet but eating consciously. The vital substances support us in our daily lives. As part of the retreat, we have put together a wonderful supporting programme so guests can see it as a five-day break, a detox or even as the start of a change in their diet, fully guided by us. Even after they’ve left, guests can choose to receive tips and recipes so they stay motivated to stick with it.
How has the tourism industry changed in recent years, and how do you see its future, especially in relation to sustainable and mindful travel experiences?
Guests are going on shorter trips, which is a trend that’s been seen for many years, and more importantly, an increasing number are staying in central Europe. This form of travel is safer, more climate-friendly and of higher quality. Sustainable travel is increasingly becoming a concern. But what stand out the most are mindful travel experiences. Hiking and cycling, and even electric bikes give many people a new opportunity to experience nature. These days, all generations are back in the mountains and exploring our incredible natural landscapes, and the appreciation of nature and the mountains has reached a new dimension that was never there before.
Conscious enjoyment can also work alongside stillness.