I’m very lucky to have stayed in some of the worlds most unique hotels. From caves in Cappadocia to a self-described collection of the absurd in Johannesburg, I’ve also been fortunate to stay at ones with stories as unique as the hotel itself. No story has been as moving as the Magdas Hotel in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt district. A story filled with hope, acceptance, and change. One that is more significant now more than ever.
Magdas Hotel is a social project by the Caritas Group aimed at integrating refugees into Austrian life. Walking through the front doors you would never guess it. The decor is hip and trendy with fun travel accents like vintage luggage and world maps. The one subtle but obvious piece in the lobby that suggests this is not your average accommodation is the tasteful collage of the refugees working at the Magdas hotel.
While touring the property with manager Gabriela I found the term “integration” goes beyond the refugees working there. To pull off such an important project like the Magdas Hotel, Gabriela went on to explain the key to their success. First, the staff consists of 20 refugees working alongside 10 hotel industry experts. Gabriela points out that this has been crucial. It ensured that the newcomers we’re not set up to fail. Next was creating programs to help the refugees and neighbours mix. Events like monthly dinners have been important in helping both sides understand each other. This mingling has become so popular that there is actually a waiting list to attend. Then there is programs set up for the young to get involved. A bicycle repair program has been key to help kids learn new skills, meet others their age, and stay out of trouble.
Naturally, for a massive project like the Magdas Hotel to succeed took a lot of helping hand. With a small budget for starting a new hotel, Gabriela and her team had to be creative. “Upcycling” the old furniture from the former retirement home the Magdas Hotel property once was is a good example of this smart thinking. Old cabinets were transformed into bedside tables and desks that are now both functional and hip. They reused everything they could and the result is something vintage with trendy highlights. This can be accredited to the neighbouring arts school. Students from the school donated art pieces and their time to paint pictures and murals which helped bring the Magdas Hotel to life.
The Art School wasn’t the only neighbour to chip in. Almost all the furniture that was not reused from the former tenants came by donation. The result – 78 completely different rooms, all with style and artistic highlights. This furniture collection includes a sofa shipped for Over 800 km away – proof that people are on board with making social projects like the Magdas Hotel work.
Paving The Way
Although only opened in February 2015, response to the Magdas hotel has been glowing. So much so that neighbouring countries like Germany and beyond are coming to the Magdas Hotel for help emulating their success. Why wouldn’t they? The social project really is a win–win-win. Refugees are provided work causing less of a strain on social programs, neighbours see the positive impact and help refugees integrate into their country, AND the customers not only get a great hotel stay, they are contributing to change.
Think about that the next time you choose a cookie cutter hotel. The Magdas Hotel may be the first of its kind but it certainly won’t be the last.
Magdas Hotel Good to Know
Room Rate: Start around €57
Includes: Cozy room and warm feeling of making a difference.
Don’t Miss: Bike rental, coffee shop, art displays.
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Although I was provided a complimentary stay at the Magdas Hotel,
the experience, opinions, and social contribution are my own.