OFFENBURGER BADBETRIEBS: the best of the Aquatic Style in Germany
A MODERN AND COMFORTABLE HIGH-END AQUATIC AND WELLNESS CENTRE, WHICH OFFERS TRADITIONAL AQUATIC WELLNESS COMBINED WITH THERMALISM AND SPA. PUBLIC MONEY (A LOT) WELL INVESTED TO SATISFY THE NEEDS OF EVERY GERMAN, BUT ALSO OF A FOREIGN CLIENTELE.
by Ciro Lo Giudice
It's the new, superbly equipped aquatic and wellness centre in Germany, built in Offenburg, in the North-West, less than 65 km from Freiburg and 40 km from Strasbourg in France. Realised in just over two years, inaugurated last July 22, and spread over an area of more than 50,000 square meters, Offenburger Badbetriebs is the synthesis of the best design choices, a new concept of wellness and its interpretations in relation to a large geographic catchment area and its population.
The best choices have been made to impress the very demanding German (as well as foreign) clientele, by selecting the most professional and competent experts in the different areas of wellness: from water and saunas to catering and entertainment. Among these true professionals two names stand out: Stefan Schürlein, general manager of the centre with ties to the local administration in his role as City Manager - in Germany, “public” is synonymous with professionalism and efficiency - and Monja Ludin, his assistant and technical manager of the pool-wellness area.
MONJA LUDIN - Technical manager
STEFAN SCHÜRLEIN - General manager
Management and strategy
Stefan Schürlein, whose idea was it to create such an innovative and complete centre, which stands out for its elegance, pleasurableness and usability? And what are the challenges you are going to face?
The idea came from a group of people who are active in our city, from the Mayor, Edith Schreiner, with the support of swimming, diving and water rugby organisations as well as associations dedicated to helping people with disabilities. The real challenge was to create an aquatic complex for everyone, with special attention to the disabled, but also to schools, sports competitions and much more.
What are the new experiences can a customer enjoy and why shouldn't one of your guests choose another aquatic centre rather than yours?
In the last twenty years we have created several aquatic centres. So we knew from the start what people want and expect, and we could act with considerable confidence. It is impossible for a lover of water sports to find such a well-equipped centre within a 50 km radius: that is why we built Offenburger Badbetriebs.
What is your experience in the wellness sector and what is important to offer people to make them appreciate Offenburger Badbetriebs?
My principal collaborator, Monja Ludin, studied Spa & Wellness management. She represents a guarantee that I will correctly interpret what people should be offered. Thanks to her expertise, besides the pools, we have designed an offering that takes the concept of wellness to a whole new level; for example, we have included different types of massage, from the Abhyanga to fitness massages inclusive peeling. We have focused on quality, setting a standard that guests will also find in the oils and body products we sell in our pro-shop, to assure a full service. Nothing is left to chance.
What are your strategic assets and the key qualities that make Offenburger Badbetriebs a truly unique and different aquatic complex in Germany and, in some respects, all of Europe?
More than the services we provide, our real assets are the structure, the different choices available, and our city itself. Our task is operational management, but we can count on a favourable geographic position, being close to France where there is a large demographic we can appeal to, which leads us to invest heavily in marketing and communication.
How much did you invest in the realization of this beautiful and very attractive project; what are your expectations and goals in the short and medium term?
Costs were in line with the initial project and budget. We only went over budget on the sauna area, which in Germany is an absolute must. The complex required an overall investment of 39.5 million euros. Next year we'll open the second part of the centre, a beautiful outdoor area for children integrated into a large "bathing" area with a lagoon, white sand and water for play and recreational activities. This section will be completed by the addition of other summer attractions such as beach volleyball, soccer, table tennis, seasonal cabin/changing room areas and a generous green space. It's easy to guess that that families are our main target demographic, though we don’t exclude any other categories, as contemplated in the initial project. In three years’ time we will be working up to speed, with the help of public investments, which however are at the service of the community.
From the point of view of your role as City Manager, tell us, what value does this modern aquatic complex offer to the city of Offenburg, its inhabitants and those of neighbouring cities? Bearing in mind that German "Aquatic & Wellness/Spa Culture" is very different from that of Southern Europe.
There is no thermal-aquatic complex within a 60km radius that can compete with ours. The real strong point of Offenburger Badbetriebs is the truly wide range of quality products that meet the needs of the local population: we have swimming pools, diving pools (from 1-3-5 metres), relaxation pools at medium to high temperatures; pools for structured and guided activities such as aquatic fitness, aquacycling, holistic activities, and many more. Obviously we don’t neglect the fun aspect, hence the two big water slides. And to round off our complete our complete wellness offering, there is a large sauna area integrated into a comfortable and relaxing wellness garden. Here our German guests will be fully satisfied, but to answer your question, we are sure that the Italians, the French and the Spanish will also be excited about what we offer.
Services and aquatic offering
Monja Ludin, with your notable international experience in aquatic wellness, when did you decide to join the Offenburger Badbetriebs Team and why?
I collaborated on the project that has now been realised and brought to life as this very comprehensive wellness facility. It was my dream and I crowned it by working side by side with the local government. In fact, I started performing my operational role in May.
How can you change the services in the spa, swimming pool and gym areas to ensure the satisfaction of your clientele?
I've been working in the wellness, sport and aquafitness sector for 25 years. I can assure you that I acquired the best and most credible understanding of the field in Italy, by following the EAA programmes and recommending high quality Italian equipment to all the clubs I have managed. Several years ago I collaborated with Dr Bernd Hartmann, professor at the University of Freiburg with ties to the world of German balneology and an institution in aquatic wellness. In our research centre we repeatedly tested aquatic equipment, noting that the best quality and most functional and reliable equipment was Italian, made by a company that is a European leader in the field. On the strength of that choice, I have worked for years following the EAA service models and achieving great results both in terms of the offerings proposed and client satisfaction. We are German and if a series of Italian options are appreciated, it's a sign that we are choosing the best for every one of our guests. EAA International is such a reference point for me that I intend to import the EAA's managerial-technical model, to ensure that Offenburger Badbetriebs becomes the first German EAA Official Centre and to guarantee the high standards set by Italy in the aquatic and wellness field.
As an expert and competent aquatic specialist, tell us, what are the distinctive features of Offenburger Badbetriebs that everyone can discover and appreciate? And what is your opinion about the hospitality aspect?
Without repeating what Stefan Schürlein has already pointed out, one thing that really sets us apart is the great dining services we provide in the indoor pool area: a restaurant that's also accessible from the sauna. The guests have a wide choice of beverages and food. An excellent service combining physical and sensory well-being: we place great importance on our new and superbly-equipped kitchen, our objective is to have people come to us in the future just to discover our cuisine. So that then they may choose to try the aquatic and wellness experience Offenburger Badbetriebs has to offer as well.
Thanks to your constant training you are now an EAA International Trainer and you know the German and Italian water styles very well. In your opinion, what are the biggest differences between the two and what do Germans want from a pool, to really be satisfied?
The Italian standards, which I progressively came to understand thanks to EAA, are definitely better, if we're talking about trainers; the best in the EU, actually. I have been a presenter in several countries, but in terms of style and methodologies Italy is a step ahead. Perfect, I'd say. And the Italians too, at least those who follow the EAA events, are a cut above the rest, with an energy that is not common among German colleagues. The Germans love aquatic bikes, aquacycling, but also more basic fitness, especially if performed using beautiful and effective tools like as Happy Flowers and Magic Aqua balls.
We have been told by Offenburger Badbetriebs that EAA/Aqquatix is greatly honoured to be working so closely with such a beautiful and complete complex, so much so that they have endorsed the Offenburger Badbetriebs Official Pilot Center project. What projects do you have planned to motivate, entertain and secure the affection of your clients/guests and to become a point of reference for all German aquatic specialists who will discover the beauty of your wellness complex and the high value of the German-Italian partnership?
We are really happy to have reached this agreement with EAA/Aqquatix! During the Christmas holidays we will probably organize an all-new EAA Christmas Aquafitness weekend for our guests-clients. We hope it will be led by Italian presenters and trainers of the calibre of Andrea Gilardoni, Fabrizio Cantarini and others. In order to strengthen our strategic plan, in 2018 we intend to organize an important EAA convention, with the aim of giving birth to the biggest event in Germany. We are very focused on training and all our trainers have developed professionally following the Italian model. Being the EAA centre of reference for Germany is of strategic value to us. I really believe in this partnership because we speak the language of quality and we want to associate ourselves with those who pursue this belief with suitable services and products. We are grateful for the trust that has been placed in us, but we are also confident that this is the only way for Offenburger Badbetriebs to become number one in Germany.