Our destination abroad

Cavallino Bianco Family Spa Grand Hotel: the first and exclusive Grand Hotel for families with children and babies – worldwide.
Snuggled in the spectacular scenery of the Unesco world heritage site of the Dolomites, the almighty mountain range in north-eastern Italy, there’s a valley, Val Gardena and its main town, Ortisei is home to one of the most inventive and innovative luxury resorts in the world: the Cavallino Bianco Family Spa Grand Hotel.

“This is a world-beater place,” said Ralph Riffeser, CEO and general manager of the hotel. “We are oriented in serving only and exclusively families with children and babies: bookings can be done only directly to the hotel, we are not part of Booking.com or other online booking systems because we want to maintain our freedom of action and be able to chose our clientele based on the direction we have chosen. No child means automatically a rejected booking and for us the fact that we have to deal with an empty room.”

Mr Riffeser started working in what used to be his grandparents hotel at the end of the ‘80s but never thought the hotel business could become his life: “I was studying, travelling, I was very sportive and enjoying life. But after one summer helping out my grandfather I realised this is what I wanted to do, I fell in love with the job.”

Those were the years when the first spa and wellness hotels were born and Mr Riffeser eagerly observed and learned from other top-notch hotels. The Cavallino Bianco was doing great at the time, but Mr Riffeser wanted more; he was looking for a direction, a concept that would make his hotel something really special.

“Once I had my own children I realised that going on holiday or for a spa week-end with the whole family was impossible: children were seen as a nuisance in most properties, they were not welcomed in the spa-area, they were expected to behave and be quiet in the restaurants, creating a huge stress for the parents who ended up not enjoying their holidays at all,” he told. “The more I thought about that, the closer I came to what I then ended up pursuing: a hotel, which could offer luxury, serenity, superb spa and wellness services, excellent food, elegant settings as well as putting the family in the centre of the equation, offering an oasis of relaxation for all family members. The kind of place I wanted to go on holiday to.”

It was a bold and radical decision, against the flow at a time where a big slice of tourism was dedicated to cater more for retired guests: “It was an immediate success, which from 2005 onwards guaranteed us 90% room occupancy all year round, from May to April; this trend changed in the past two years due to the economic crisis and now we have 80% occupancy, we were a bit surprised to see how hungry the market was for what we were offering.”

“The location of course helps with its beauty and the sports opportunities,” said Mr Riffeser, “but we, as Cavallino Bianco, are continuously reinventing ourselves, we’re never standing still. We observe what our clients want; we try to anticipate their needs. We try a lot of different things, some of them work, others don’t, but what’s important is to think, to improve the quality of the services on a constant basis, to offer substance to our guests. Our prices have tripled since 2002 andeven despite the crisis we are not going to reduce them because we need to keep the rates high to guarantee the efficiency of our services.”

All activities and services offered are included, be it the internal ski school in the winter or the guided tours in the summer, to explore the nature. The hotel is intelligently structured, designed with the well-being of the family in mind: communal areas, 104 rooms and suites, with all amenities needed by a family; the Lino land, a 1240 m2 space for children, accessible every day, 8.30 am to 10 pm and for all ages.

The hotel obviously features as well swimming pools, water slides,a 2890 m2 dream spa and wellness area, four restaurants, cosy cafes and bars make of this hotel a truly special place. Said Mr Riffeser: “We want our clients to leave us enthusiastic, inebriated by the environment, longing to come back. We’ve had so many families coming and telling us that they had to come since all their friends had been here already. Mouth to mouth word is a very powerful marketing tool.”

Mr Riffeser is rightfully proud of what he and his dedicated team have been able to create; thanks to his personal experience he managed to achieve success and appreciation, confirmed by many prices and titles, such as ‘top family hotel in the world’ as Tripadvisor’s Travellers’ Choice 2013. “Some business schools have asked me to come and study the Cavallino Bianco phenomenon, but I always say that this is the result of entrepreneurial spirit and intuition, born from a personal story and developed into an international success, but it is inimitable.”

To find out more about it go to: http://www.cavallino-bianco.com/