Simply tune out…

Interview with Gebhard Pichler, Stuben’s tourism director

@La Loupe Benjamin Skardarasy

In Stuben people know each other – and they don’t just work together, they’re connected by profound friendship and work as one. In the past years the Arlberg’s smallest village has seen a lot of development and today it stands for quality sports tourism and is known far and wide. Still, Stuben has managed to retain that character of a cosy village, and during every stay the guests are won over by its charm and warmth. In his interview with La Loupe, tourism director Gebi Pichler explained how the tranquil village manages to move with the times.

L.L. / With only 92 inhabitants Stuben is the Arlberg’s smallest village. Still, you say it must not be underestimated. What’s so special about the destination?

G.P. / We may be the smallest village here – but we still are a village on Arlberg, committed to quality. Consequently, Stuben has made some investments, it keeps progressing, and it’s a renowned tourism destination.

The appeal certainly lies in the fact that it’s a small, charming mountain village with four to five little alleys which sometimes seems to take you back in time while still boasting modern aspects – be it in terms of cuisine, eco-features, or the wellness area. The simplicity, the authenticity, and the high quality; that’s what our guests value very much. The quiet is unique – we’re a small, utterly intriguing hideaway.

And the fact that it’s easy to reach is a big advantage, too, you never need snow chains. We’re at the heart of the Arlberg, close to St. Anton, Lech Zürs, and Sonnenkopf. And in Stuben you don’t need any means of transportation, that’s great.

©Stuben Tourismus Foto: Alex Kaiser
©Stuben Tourismus Foto: Alex Kaiser

L.L. / What are the challenges for a small place like this – when it comes to standing out and attracting attention?

G.P. / Each winter sports destination has its own particularities which is why it’s not always easy to stand out. Our advantage is the Arlberg which is backed by a powerful marketing organisation and that helps us gain visibility on a global scale. And our authenticity and small size are factors that make us different from others – which are also tricky to communicate, though. But that’s exactly what we want to advertise.

L.L. / You have been Stuben am Arlberg’s tourism director for a year and a half. Before that your father, Rudi Pichler, was in charge of the tourism office. Was it a logical choice to follow in his footsteps?

G.P. / I wouldn’t say it was a concrete goal I had, it was more inherited, I guess. The tourism office is a one-man-show and at some point, my father asked me if I could take over the Saturdays for him. Back then I was still with Lech Zürs tourism, but I said yes anyway. I got very good feedback and when my father retired I thought about it for a long time and then decided to take over his office. I care a lot about Stuben and it really is my dream job. What’s amazing about it: I can do my own thing and follow my own visions. It definitely was the right decision.

L.L. / Tourism in Stuben has changed over the past years. What kind of tourism was the marketing strategy aimed at?

G.P. / We decided to focus on three topics: active and athletic lifestyle, indulgence, and quality time. So, everything we do we do to connect those three pillars. If you come to Stuben you really can’t do without them.

©Stuben Tourismus Foto: Alex Kaiser
©Stuben Tourismus Foto: Alex Kaiser

L.L. / Stuben is your home and it’s characterised by many facets. What does the image look like that you want to project to the world?

G.P. / That of an authentic mountain village with alpine charm which still manages to set modern highlights in spite of its rich history and sense for tradition. It’s about what’s real and charming. The guests are supposed to feel at home during their holiday.

L.L. / Numerous hotels have recently been modernised. What aspects do guests value the most nowadays?

G.P. / Quality in all aspects. Not matter if it’s the skiing area, the marketing, or the culinary offer. My father always used to say: “When you’re on holiday in Stuben you don’t need a Porsche or a fur coat; all you need is proper skiing gear.” I wouldn’t exactly put it that way anymore – with exception of the fur coat, you really don’t need that. But nowadays a guest in Stuben may well drive a Porsche or another high-quality make and they simply value quality, at home and on holiday.

L.L. / Summer is also becoming increasingly interesting for Stuben. How are you planning on making the mountain summer the focus of attention?

G.P. / We have been thinking about that a lot and in the future we’ll also allocate a larger budget. Hiking, mountain biking, and e-bikes are the big topics here, and we also want to focus on the concept of “time off”: in Stuben guests can simply enjoy the quiet and take a break from everything. There are few disturbing factors and you can just relax. We are still brainstorming and looking for extraordinary possibilities for attracting guests.

L.L. / In the past years Stuben, a small mountain village, has turned into a popular tourism destination. What are your visions for the place?

G.P. / We want to become a year-round destination – that’s our goal, that’s what all our strategies are aimed at and what’s becoming increasingly important for Stuben. We want to have a comprehensive offer for our guests.

©La Loupe Benjamin Skardarasy
©La Loupe Benjamin Skardarasy

Wordrap with Gebhard Pichler:

My favourite spot in Stuben: In summer it’s the lake, See’le, in winter anywhere.

In summer I like to go to…Styria, personally, because that’s where my wife is from.

In winter I enjoyskiing with my daughter.

On the slopes: adrenaline or indulgence? Adrenaline on the slopes, indulgence in the huts.

Progress meansa positive development and never standing still.

My secret tip for Stuben: The hike over Franz-Josef-Weg and Gofri, taking a break and enjoying the view of Klostertal.

Gebhard Pichler

After his father Rudi Pichler, who had been in charge of Stuben’s tourism office for decades, retired, Gebhard Pichler took the fortunes of the charming mountain village in his hands in 2017. With his knowledge and ideas he has been developing tourism and focusing on three pillars: athletic lifestyle, indulgence, and quality. A successful strategy which has already paid off for Stuben’s hosts.