Breakfast with Heinz Hunkeler: 160 Years Kronenhof Pontresina
I am having breakfast with Heinz E. Hunkeler, the General Manager of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof in Pontresina, on the high plateau of the Engadin St. Moritz valley, in Switzerland’s famous Canton Graubünden (use link to the left for more details including history).
The Grand Hotel Kronenhof is A Select member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World. It opened in 1851, as a modest inn, with three rooms. When we researched its history, we traced its development from its humble beginnings to today’s elegance and splendor. It is now a gourmet temple, an excellent Spa and last but not least one of the last true grand hotels of the Swiss Alps.
It is managed by a couple, by Heinz and Jenny Hunkeler.
Heinz Hunkeler and I are having a late breakfast at the beautiful neo-baroque Grand Restaurant.
Three quick questions to warm up:
A. Augustin: What's your motto in life?
Work to live but don’t live to work.
Q. What do you want to have accomplished in the next ten years?
The aim is to successfully navigate my big ship, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof, through the next decades. On board, there is my crew as well as my still very young family.
Q. And your preferred breakfast?
The traditional healthy Birchermüsli
After former Manager Henry Hunold had retired, he had handed the management to the 30 years younger couple Heinz E. and Jenny Hunkeler (both hold a Bachelor Degree of Science in International Hospitality Management of Lausanne).
Q. We are sitting at the historic Grand Hotel Kronenhof, where many famous people stayed and sat before… Do you like this philosophical air of history lingering all over the hotel or do you consider such strong ties with the past as a burden?
No. What has been here for decades has built the foundation for the future. Also, the history of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof is the one differentiating factor which makes this place truly unique. And, with the overall “face lift” in 2007, we managed to build the bridge between traditions, history and a modern and attractive hotel without loosing its original charm.
Q. To whom did you listen in the past week?
To the sounds of my little daughter, who is two months old, and tries to tell me so many things.
Q. You jointly manage the Kronenhof together with your wife since 4.5 years. Who is the better hotel manager: you or your wife?
I guess my wife. Imagine, she manages a baby, a hotel…and me!
Q. The Kronenhof reflects a sportive elegance. You still have dinners with a black tie dress code. Could you personally imagine welcoming a guest – and you wear jeans and a t-shirt?
As General Manager and role model for my employees it is a responsibility to be dressed appropriately. It is part of showing my respect to our guests and to this wonderful hotel. Hence, jeans and t-shirt do not fit to today’s style and spirit at the Grand Hotel Kronenhof.
Q. What was your “dream-profession” when you were a kid?
Q. Do you prefer development or tradition?
I prefer developing traditions.
Q. What would you never like to be changed at your hotel?
The golden crown on the roof
Q. Is it too much or too little courage that sometimes makes you fail?
Those who fight and always make a difference may experience loss. Those that fight and don’t make a difference, have already lost.
The inner courtyard receives guests.
Q. How often do you reflect about your own life?
Daily. Reflection is the source of progress.
Q. How important is the hotel's history for you as a marketing tool?
It is crucial. As mentioned earlier, the hotel’s history is definitely a differentiating factor. People love stories and we got plenty of those, and all these stories reflect not only the development of the hotel but also the impressive development of Pontresina and the Engadin valley since 1848, when the Grand Hotel Kronenhof’s history began.
Q. How do you balance business life and private life?
Regularly charging the batteries is vital. Spending quality time with my family and friends do that for me.
Q. Which hobbies are absolutely essential for you?
I love mountain tours, hiking, biking and after an intensive day outdoors, a good film will do the rest.
The first winter tourists toured the Alps during the 2nd half of the 19th century.
Q. What was the most important advice you ever received?
H. Hunkeler: Work hard, play hard. Do what you do best, do it right and have fun.
Q. When you visit other hotels what do you observe/judge in the first place?
H. Hunkeler: As many of my colleagues working in the hospitality industry, I have an “occupational illness”. Hence, I bet I will discover this one light bulb in a hotel that does not work.
Do you like your handwriting?
H. Hunkeler: Yes.
Would you ever Bungee Jump?
H. Hunkeler: Yes. My favourite was a 192 metres jump from Austria’s Europabrücke
What is your least favourite thing about yourself?
H. Hunkeler: I suggest you ask my wife.
Do you have a special talent?
H. Hunkeler: My motivation.
Could you imagine a PR manager answering all these questions for you?
If there is someone who dares to answer to all these questions himself or herself, feel free to apply.
The hotel today: Kronenhof adds futuristic design to its historic facade.
And finally our famous quick ones:
Skiing or Skateboarding? Skiing, preferably off-piste
Black&white or colours? Colours.
Furs or synthetics? Furs
Reading or watching? Watching.
Thank you for your time!