Last year I built a house in Toggenburg. My life partner comes from there and I have liked the area ever since my apprenticeship as a polymechanic, which I completed in a company there. The moment I decided to move to the canton of St. Gallen, it was clear to me that I would also look for a job nearby. I quit my job and looked for a new job after building our house. The vacancy at Werdenberg Tourism came just at the right time for me. The region is exciting and has great potential for further development.
My first impression is very good. The tourist offer is great. Besides the Werdenberg castle and museums, there are restaurants, hotels, a cinema, a golf course, a bird of prey park, Mühlbach and much more. Above all, the region offers a magnificent natural landscape, with a wide range of biking and hiking trails. The service providers are very open and interested in moving forward together, as are the municipalities, which jointly promote tourism. This readiness for change is an important prerequisite and you don't find it in this form everywhere. I think it is a great opportunity.
Tourism Werdenberg as an organisation is of course different from larger tourism businesses. The structures are simple, as head of tourism I am managing director, customer advisor, marketing manager and project manager all in one. In addition, there are no tourist taxes such as tourism or visitor's tax, so the financial resources are more limited. But I don't see that as a problem. I think Werdenberg Tourism has taken a good path and I am happy to continue following it.
First of all, I will seek contact with the service providers and the communities. The aim is to find out which ideas already exist and which have already been tried out - with or without success. Secondly, we need to identify the DNA of the Werdenberg region, in other words, its tourism identity. The question here is: What makes the Werdenberg tourism region special? According to the current offer, the focus is on nature, non-motorised traffic - that is, hiking and cycling - and cultural events. But in order to stand out from other tourism regions, it needs a unique selling proposition. On the one hand, we have to create new offers that distinguish us from other destinations, and at the same time we have to work more closely with surrounding tourism organisations. Because visitors are not interested in which tourist region they are in, they just want fun and relaxation.
Clearly the current situation. Tourism in general is doing very badly. Hotels and restaurants are the heart of tourism. The Corona pandemic has hit the tourism industry very hard. As a small tourism region like Werdenberg, it is also difficult to be perceived throughout Switzerland. New innovative ideas have to be developed to attract the attention of the target group. This is not about tapping into international markets. The main target group is people from eastern Switzerland and Liechtenstein. At the same time, the local population must not be neglected. Werdenberg is their local recreation area. Despite these challenges, it is my concern to get the best out of the Werdenberg region with the available resources and financial possibilities - always with the aim that service providers and communities benefit.
Of course I follow the current developments in the tourism industry. At Tourismus Werdenberg, however, we are currently at a different point in the process. First of all, we have to take care of the development of the offer and the destination. In a second step, the visitors' stay can be improved with the help of the latest technologies, for example in ticketing. But we have to realise that in the current situation we are not in a position to take on a pioneering role, neither in digitalisation nor in the area of social media. When the new systems become established, however, we will of course check them out. In the meantime, we are busy digitising already existing offers. Not all service providers are ready yet.
Jörg Steiner is 42 years old and comes from Prättigau in the canton of Graubünden. After his four-year professional career in sailing, he took over the family business Fideriser Heuberge. In 2011, Jörg Steiner sold the tourism business and studied business administration and politics. After graduating, he started working for Schaffhauserland Tourism. As deputy director, he was significantly involved in the further development of the Schaffhauserland destination for 7 years. Today Jörg Steiner lives in Toggenburg. He has been head of Werdenberg Tourism since May.