Stories from the Road – Researching and Developing Tauck Itineraries
Posted by Guest Blogger
Posted in: Insider Connections
Tags: Switzerland, Europe, Hotels
From Guest Blogger Scott Supernaw
A BEER WITH MARK TWAIN AND LEO TOLSTOY
While doing our research for hotels for Tauck’s Switzerland tour, late one afternoon I found myself sitting on a bar stool, enjoying a draft beer in a perfectly frosted stein, in the very same bar in the Schweizerhof Hotel Lucerne that hosted not only Mark Twain and Leo Tolstoy, but other notable travelers such as Roger Moore, Richard Wagner and Bob Dylan. I, of course, imagined that each of them sat on that same bar stool I was occupying. And, come to find out, it was likely the bartender was from the same family!
A HOTEL FOR GENERATIONS OF FAMILIES
While most guests in the intimate bar were enjoying their drinks and the stunning scenery from outside the spacious windows – the cobalt blue of Lake Lucerne complemented by the azure blue sky and snow-capped Alps in the background – I was being entertained watching the bartender. Having worked as a bartender while in graduate school, I have a real appreciation for skilled bartenders. The bartender of the Schweizerhof was a study in efficiency and perfection while mixing drinks. He never took more that 4 steps and 30 seconds to complete an order – and some for drinks that had 4 and 5 ingredients. And the martinis were shaken, not stirred – à la James Bond, played by Roger Moore when he resided in the Schweizerhof. I complimented the bartender on his mixing skills and knowledge of an amazing number of drinks. He informed me that he had been an apprentice barman at the hotel for 4 years, and then for 20 years as #2 – before replacing his father as the head bartender! AND, his father had done the same, replacing his father (this man's grandfather) when he retired. I commented that he not only had great pride in doing his best, but dedication, care and commitment that not only he, but his family had for their job. He responded that while he was proud to be the 3rd-generation bartender, there were many on the staff who were 5th-generation employees, and in some cases, the entire family worked at the hotel.
PRIDE AND NO PREJUDICE
The next day we had a scheduled meeting with the owner of the hotel, Mr. Patrick Hauser. This in itself was unusual as we normally met with the General Manager and/or Front Office Manager. We soon discovered why. While we were evaluating the hotel as a potential property to feature on our Switzerland tour, Patrick was interested in determining if Tauck had the business acumen and type of clientele who would appreciate his hotel. I hesitate to use the phrase “passing judgement” but, in essence he was; although it was more of helping decide if there was a “fit” for our clientele, his “house” as he often referred to the hotel, and Tauck as a company.
BRICKS AND MORTAR HELP, BUT NOT A TAUCK HOTEL MAKES
We quickly came to realize that the Schweizerhof was not just a hotel with an excellent location (we had inspected others in Lucerne with similar locales), an international ranking with all the “bells and whistles” like spacious rooms, attractive public areas, reputable restaurants, etc. (we visited and evaluated 2 other hotels with 5-star ratings in Lucerne) and attractive façades (others in Lucerne, from an architecture standpoint, were appealing) but the Schweizerhof had an intangible feeling to it. The Schweizerhof had a “personality”, a warm sort of feeling of being in a large house where everybody knew each other and was there to help each other; and not only the guests, but fellow staff members.
No, this is not the name of a beer or wine; rather the year the Hauser family took ownership of the Schweizerhof. It has been in the family ever since, with the 5th generation now running the hotel. While generations of ownership are not unusual, to succeed for 5 generations is remarkable. Few organizations make it beyond 2 or 3 generations. Tauck ownership and management is in its 3rd generation. Like Tauck, the Schweizerhof is unique in that every employee is treated with respect and dignity. It’s like a large family where holidays, birthdays, births, weddings, charitable events etc, are recognized and celebrated. The Hauser family, like Tauck, instills a sense of not only pride in doing a good job, but comfort and confidence that the management knows and appreciates everyone working for the “team”. There is no “I” in these teams.
20 AND COUNTING
Needless to say, the Tauck / Hauser partnership has enjoyed over 20 years of cooperation and look forward to at least another 20!