Magdas Hotel - Refugee integration through hospitality training
Type of Information
- Case studies
- Project or programme
Magdas Social Business (subsidiary of Caritas)
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Contact Person Function
Magdas Hotel in Vienna is run by refugees and tourism professionals. Magdas addresses the problem of labour market integration for refugees by providing refugees with training and employment in the hospitality sector. Because refugees have international backgrounds and can often speak multiple languages, they have an advantage when it comes to dealing with tourists and other travellers. The hotel also serves to bring together people with different international, social and cultural backgrounds: guests, neighbours, refugees, NGOs, etc. Magdas proactively promotes the idea of staying open-minded within the staff and to guests.
Issue/Challenge and Goal/Assumption
Refugees encounter significant difficulties in finding employment in Austria. They often do not have the necessary certifications to continue their previous professions in a new country, and potential employers may be unwilling to hire refugees or find that they lack necessary experience. During the asylum procedure, which can be lengthy, asylum seekers might also lose previously acquired skills or their skills might become outdated. The result can be poverty and social isolation.
At the same time, there is a shortage of labour in the tourism industry. Magdas Hotel therefore works to solve both problems by providing on-the-job training in the hospitality industry to individuals entitled to asylum and subsidiary protection.
How does it work
The hotel has 88 rooms and employs roughly 20 migrants with refugee backgrounds (from over a dozen different countries) and 10 tourism professionals. The refugee staff work in the kitchen, bar, housekeeping and reception alongside the professionals and receive on-the-job training from the professionals. When refugee staff members become skilled enough to be considered ‘professionals’ themselves, Magdas encourages them to find work in another hotel or stay and become trainers for new staff. Magdas envisions that the typical refugee staff member will stay for about two years before moving on.
The hotel is open to the public for accommodations, events and meetings. Although the mission of the hotel is to promote the integration of refugees, it operates like a ‘normal’ hotel. The website of the hotel allows guests to make reservations. Rates for rooms start at around €67 per night, and there are several different types of rooms available, including suites and rooms that accommodate four or more guests. The hotel provides the services and accommodations that are typically expected: restaurant and bar, 24-hour reception, WiFi, bicycle rental, toiletries, meeting and event space, patio/garden space, etc. Through collaborations with designers and art students, the hotel has a stylish appearance despite its limited budget for decor.
Occupancy rates at the hotel are about 70 percent. After two years of operations, the hotel was on track to break even financially (i.e. costs equal revenue). As of February 2018, around 100,000 guests have stayed in the hotel.
Other results of the hotel:
- Employment for about 20 refugees and 10 professionals in the tourism industry;
- Integration into the labour market for refugees with limited job opportunities. Their employment provides further economic stability through, for example, payment into the pension system;
- Refugee staff members develop new skills and maintain existing skills;
- The hotel serves as a model for the tourism industry, for which refugees are an exciting target group as employees;
- The hotel serves as a model for the reuse and refurbishment of used furniture and decoration;
- The project creates awareness that the skills of refugees enrich society.
Magdas has won numerous awards, both as a project to promote labour market integration for refugees and for its innovative design and decoration: MigAward, Trigos Award, Austrian State Prize for Design, Hospitality Innovation Award (presented by PFK hotelexperts), The Great Indoors Award (Netherlands).
As a hotel, Magdas is constantly evaluated by guests on booking and review websites.
Who will benefit?
Individuals with a refugee background are able to gain employment and training. The hotel also employs non-refugee staff. The hotel furthermore serves as a unique meeting point and place of exchange between refugees, the neighbouring community and hotel guests from all over the world.
Source of funding and Resources used
Funding for the hotel started with a €1.5 million loan from the parent charity Caritas and an additional €60,000-70,000 raised through crowd-funding. This was necessary in order to renovate and furnish the 88-room hotel, which was converted from a retirement home that had previously been run by Caritas. Renovation and design of the hotel required about 6-7 months and was managed by an architectural firm.
Due to the tight budget, the hotel required contributions in materials and equipment from contractors and suppliers, as well as assistance from local residents and refugees in building and preparing the hotel for opening (moving furniture, cleaning, etc.). The furniture and decoration for the hotel was ‘upcycled’—used furniture and decorative objects were refurbished and/or transformed.
Some staff training (basic training, intercultural training, etc.) is funded by magdas_Academy (another project of Caritas), which receives individual donations. The hotel generates ongoing revenue through room reservations, which start at around €67 per night, payment for food and beverages and rental of meeting and event space. The hotel staff are paid in accordance with industry standards, starting at about €20,000 per year for the least-qualified employees.