Built over 100 years ago, the stylish Cristallo Reconditioning and Beauty Hotel, which over the years has attracted actors, royalty, captains of industry and famous singers, recently underwent a $20 million restoration. Cristallo’s General Manager, Mr. Stelio Gualaccin, talks exclusively to BTN about the history and rennovation of Cortina’s luxurious Hotel Cristallo.
BTN: Can you tell me about the recent history of The Cristallo Reconditioning and Beauty Hotel and its renovation?
The hotel was run by the Menardi family up to 1978 when it was taken over by the “Compagnia Italiana Grandi Hotels”. Running costs had increased tenfold, times had changed and the guests did not have the same tastes as in times gone by. The CIGH organisation ran the hotel for another 12 years before closing it in 1992. The hotel remained closed until a businessman from Bologna decided to re-open it and write a new page in its history.
The plan was simply to restore the hotel to its previous grandeur and make it once again home to actors, royalty, captains of industry and famous singers. An agreement was reached with two powerful new partners, Isokinetic and Transvital and the restoration and expansion project got under way.
BTN: What was the thinking behind the new name “Cristallo Reconditioning & Beauty Hotel”?
SG: Behind the name there is our commitment to wellnes and beauty and the partnership with two highly qualified partners: Isokinetic and Transvital.
BTN: What differentiates Hotel Cristallo from any of its competitors?
SG: Our location is certainly an advantage. Set atop a quite, panoramic and sunny hill, the Cristallo offers unrivalled view of the spectacular valley of Cortina d’Ampezzo, the most exclusive yet naturally preserved town, nestled in the Natural Park of the Ampezzo Dolomites.
BTN: As a family owned operation, would the family ever consider selling the property to one of the larger hotel chains?
SG: Everything in the world is on sale, as long as there is someone interested in buying… So I cannot say that the family will never sell the property. I can say, though, that I do not see this happening in the near future. The family are directly involved in the business and enjoy it a lot!
BTN: How much money was spent on the hotel renovations in 2001? Have you managed to maintain some of the historical aspect of the property after its modernisation?
SG: It was a $20million-project, which involved the entire building, except the outside walls, that is our historical heritage.
The renovation was completed in 2001, for its hundredth birthday. This year, we celebrated the anniversary with the publication of The Queen’s Jewel, a book with historical pictures of the building and the history of the territory.
The property now can look to the future and offer luxury services to today’s discerning travellers.
BTN: You are an affiliate of the Small Hotels of the World. Can you tell me about some of the benefits of this affiliation?
SG: The Leading Hotels of the World represents the finest luxury hotels worldwide and we are proud to be among them. It gives us worldwide publicity and enables us to reach the markets which would be difficult to reach as an independent hotel. Also, it is a great commitment to excellence and unparalleled five-star quality.
BTN: How are your occupancy rates?
SG: We have a two-seasons opening, summer and winter, with an annual occupancy rate above 60%.
BTN: Who are your main clientele?
SG: Italy represents our main market, but we are seeing an increase in international clientele, especially from the US and UK, as well as from Russia, which together counts for almost 50% of our clients in winter.
BTN: What is the average length of stay for guests at the hotel?
SG: The average length of stay is more than 3 days. But with the increase in international clientele, we are also seeing an increase in the average length of stays.
BTN: Why do you think Cristallo was so popular with important personalities such as the Duke of Aosta, King Umberto of Savoy, and Arthur Rubinstein in the 20th century? Does the property still attract celebrities?
SG: There is a long list of famous names in the guest register at the Cortina Cristallo: These include Leon Tolstoy and his family who had a suite named after them, Gabriele D’Annunzio, who dedicated a work to Rosa Menardi, Amedeo of Savoy, Margherita of Savoy Aosta, King Leopold of Belgium, Liliane De Rethy, Isabelle Hèry Countess of Paris, Maria of Savoy, Princess of Piedmont, Admiral Miklòs Horthy, Regent of the kingdom of Hungary, Kings Fahd and Farouk of Egypt, Michael, Duke of Kent, Peter Sellers, David Niven, Claudia Cardinale, Frank Sinatra, William Holden, Shirley Bassey, Gunther Sachs and Heinrich Furstenberg.
We are still preferred by many celebrities, above all the singer Sting, who visited during Christmas last year, with his entire family. But among our guests there also Italian politicians, actors, anchorman, who come to Cristallo to spend time in this beautiful valley, skiing or relaxing.
BTN: If you could use one word to describe the ambience of the Cristallo what would it be?
SG: G: “Gustaviano”, in memory of the enlightened King Gustav III of Sweden. More than 300 years ago Gustav III, sought to bring to his country the atmosphere and patrician of Venetian homes which had captured his heart. After he introduced the simple, but sophisticated style to his own country, it was officially baptized with his name.
Gustav lll, had associated Nordic neoclassicism also of a vaguely French inspiration with the Scandinavian decorative tradition: the classic ornamental decoration was diluted with calm atmospheres, dominated by airy and delicate colours in pastel tones (grey, sky blue, light green).
Floors were whitened with whitewash until a silvery grey effect was achieved. The wall was divided up into panels in the same clear tones and then enriched with fabrics, with real or trompe d’oeil pilasters and skirting boards.
The result was bright rooms, capable of providing classicism with an entirely new lightness and freshness.
BTN: Ursula Chioma recently won head barman award in the BarFestival 2005, as well as picking up the “Bar of the Year” diamond award. Since this recognition, have you seen an increase of business at the Lobby Bar? Is Ursula’s winning pre-dinner cocktail on your menu? Is the Lobby Bar open to the general public as well as guests at the hotel?
SG: All Ursula’s winning cocktails (there are many!) are on our menu, together with other exceptional proposals prepared by Ursula for the summer: energizing and vitamin-rich drinks, for example. The Cocktail Bar La Veranda is open to in-house guests and general public.
BTN: During the recent AHIC Conference in Dubai, it was suggested that with a quality spa in place, you can increase revenue by 30%. What are your thoughts on the growth of the spa market and the importance of offering spa facilities?
SG: We strongly believe in offering Spa services in our five star hotel. In fact, when we opened, we signed partnerships with Transvital and Isokinetic to offer beauty treatments and unique sport and wellness services.
Today offering spa services is a must and this will not change, but it will increase.
We are studying new wellness services for our guests, but I cannot reveal anything now. It will be an exclusive wellness offer which will be available from 2006.
BTN: Can you discuss 2 of your signature spa treatments?
TRANSVITAL treatments are based on the DOUBLE ACTION ANTI-AGE BIO-COMPLEX: This is a synergetic complex made up of highly effective active ingredients that utilise the double action of pure yeast extract. The ingredients are then combined with bio-marine molecules. The second element is the use of sophisticated massage techniques that first and foremost induce a profound feeling of relaxation, yet at the same time help tone, tighten and return muscle to form.
“Deep Treatments” epitomises the overall TRANSVITAL sense of well-being. The guest is immersed in a steam bath and every part of the body is then treated with massage techniques that induce the activation of the ingredients contained in the TRANSVITAL products and produce a visible and highly effective cosmetic difference. The skin acquires new tone, vitality, tautness and luminosity. Following this, the body is totally wrapped in algae that through their natural properties purify the skin and remove toxins.