News for the Hospitality Executive
Austrian Guido Schwengersbauer Finds Success with the
16 room Casa Romantica La Parenzana,
a Most Unusual Hotel in Istria, Croatia
|by Barry Napier, April 2009
The Istrian tourism idea is very different from the usual, because it includes every kind of hotel establishment, from very small konobas to larger five star. For Croatia, all are essential, an intricate network of widely varying places that maintain high quality throughout.
As is often the case, the owner of a private hotel either makes or breaks his own business. Guido Schwengersbauer has certainly made his business thrive. Larger than life, genial, with a desire to provide what customers want, Guido cannot help but succeed. A big man in every sense, he exudes warmth and knowledge. As my Croatian driver said, “Guido is more Istrian than Istrians!”
Guido arrived in Istria, Croatia, over thirty years ago, working in the tourism industry. He built up contacts and expertise and finally bought his own hotel. Well, to be precise, he bought four houses next to each other in a village not far from the old town of Buje, northern Istria. The village was a station-stop for the Austria-to-Porec railway. Which is why his hotel has photos of the railway, and Guido owns a few hundred railway artefacts.
Guido, in his disarming way, told me that when he saw the strict classification process when applying for stars, he decided not to bother! Instead, he forged ahead on his own and now has a well-known and popular hotel that is central to northern Istria and yet in a quiet spot.
He went for a simple but comfortable establishment and, in my tour of the hotel, I thought it was a lovely place to stay. This was confirmed when I met several of his staff, including his chef, who made a fresh pasta and truffle dish on the spot, just for me, accompanied by the best wine. Next day, one of his assistants displayed their local knowledge, the kind that is invaluable to visitors, making them a credit to Guido.
Guido’s hotel front consists of four different ages in the village’s
prosperity – he pointed out the varying styles, from poorer to richer.
Now, the hotel is just one large whole, nicely finished outside and inside,
with pleasant shrubs to the front, where a drink and Istrian delicacies
on a sunny day are perfect for each other.
Casa Romantica La Parenzana
Volpia 3, 52460 Buje, Istria
The hotel has a combination of single, double and family rooms (16 rooms with 30 beds), so Guido catches all comers. His hotel is particularly liked by groups of cyclists, who love to follow the old rail paths. But, anyone with an eye for authenticity and sheer human warmth, will love this unusually all-round place to stay, where there is an atmosphere of relaxation.
The hotel concentrates on local produce from farmers he knows and clients love it. The proof of success for Guido’s approach is that people come from Germany and surrounding countries just to eat his fare. How many private hotels can boast that?
Guido literally does whatever is asked of him, hence his strong following. If customers need to be picked up from Trieste or Pula airport, then he arranges it. He offers short-break stays and long-weekends and cookery courses. Another plus.
More than that, he offers features not found elsewhere… like painting holidays with Dermot, the Irish TV artist. Guido has a permanent art studio complete with easels and equipment, just for Dermot’s clients. Guido finds places for them to paint, can transport everyone there, and provide food. He specialises not just in the usual tourist highlights, but in the ‘real’ Istria, largely unknown to travellers. He even has customers who stay at his hotel, but who play golf at a nearby Kempinski hotel!
Guido has a great eye for customer satisfaction. One of his friends, the ex-president of Istria, has a charter boat, also available to Guido’s customers at an all-day price that can at least equal that of a normal few-hours boat trip from Porec. If a small group or individuals want to see authentic Istria, Guido will arrange it all, using his vast circle of friends and colleagues. I have a feeling that if I wanted a tour of the dark side of the moon, Guido could set it up for me in a few hours!
Casa Romantica La Parenzana is a most unusual hotel. It is easy-going and very comfortable to be in, with no need for bow-ties or suits! The host is a good, honest man, with many ideas, and he is open to all new requests. What more does a customer want? More than that, his hotel is a vital component in Istria’s comprehensive tourism vision, just as important as any five-star.
© Barry Napier
|Also See:||First Three Year Review of Istria's Tourism Plan... Plenty of Opportunities for Hoteliers / January 2007|