Feature - A Sparkling Success - March 2019

Crystal-Dome---Credit-(copyright)Swarovski-Kristallwelten

The family-owned Swarovski Kristallwelten is maturing from a corporate brand land into a multifaceted visitor experience

by Juliana Gilling

At Swarovski Kristallwelten (Swarovski Crystal Worlds) a crystalline cloud crafted from 800,000 crystals shimmers above a mirror pool, children climb and slide inside a glass-faceted play tower, and guests lose themselves inside a glittering infinity room. The attraction offers myriad ways to experience the mesmerizing qualities of crystal. Through the prism of Swarovski Kristallwelten, people can see Swarovski in a brand-new light.

The fifth-generation family business built Swarovski Kristallwelten to celebrate its centenary in 1995. The attraction is located in the Tyrolean town of Wattens, Austria, where Daniel Swarovski founded his crystal-cutting company in 1895. Since opening, Swarovski Kristallwelten has received more than 14 million guests and is one of Austria’s most visited attractions. Crystal fascinates people from all cultures, and visitors arrive from more than 60 countries, reflecting Swarovski’s international appeal. 

The visitor numbers are “quite remarkable” considering that “Wattens is not Paris, Vienna, or London,” says Stefan Isser. As managing director of D. Swarovski Tourism Services GmbH, he is responsible for Swarovski Kristallwelten and the Swarovski Kristallwelten Stores in Austrian cities Innsbruck and Vienna. 

Famos-Wonder-Chamber---Credit-(copyright)Swarovski-Kristallwelten
The “Famos” Chamber of Wonder features four architectural landmarks on display: the Taj Mahal, Pyramid of Cheops, Empire State Building, and Lenin’s Mausoleum. (Credit: © Swarovski Kristallwelten)

Crystal-Clear Vision

Swarovski Kristallwelten was a radical idea at the time, predating brand lands including Guinness Storehouse and Volkswagen’s Autostadt. The forward-thinking Swarovski family wanted to fuse their business with tourism, retail, and food and beverage (F&B) experiences. Crystal would be presented not merely as a material but as an inspiration. “The family wanted to build something for the future,” explains Isser. 

“Swarovski Kristallwelten was a huge success from the beginning,” he says. Its allure proved to be a challenge, as visitor numbers surpassed original expectations. The team anticipated welcoming between 150,000 and 200,000 visitors in the first year. In reality, “more than 500,000 people visited,” says Isser. On average, the 7.5-hectare attraction now receives 650,000 to 700,000 visitors a year.

Increasing capacity has been a priority. The family has invested in a series of new developments, the largest being the expansion that opened in 2015 to mark Swarovski’s 120th anniversary. It doubled the size of the grounds and included a four-story play tower and outdoor playground designed by Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta. 

“We are two times bigger now than we were in 1995,” says Isser. “The density of what we offer has increased enormously. We have different offerings for children and families, we have a lot more events going on, and we have our own restaurant. The changes are significant.” The attraction is also home to the world’s largest Swarovski store, featuring 3,500 products. 

The style of the visitor experience has evolved, too. “At the beginning, it was more like a museum exhibition; now it’s a 360-degree experience, which is a lot more interactive,” says Isser. Swarovski Kristallwelten is an immersive “fairy tale,” full of stories. 

New attractions have clustered around the “world of wonder” created by Austrian multimedia artist André Heller in 1995. Swarovski Kristallwelten’s star attractions are 17 Chambers of Wonder, inspired by the 16th-century chambers of art and artifacts at Austria’s Ambras Castle. At “Swarovski’s treasure house,” creative partners from the fields of art, architecture, fashion, and design share dazzling interpretations of crystal. Their work explores crystal’s “metaphoric values” and produces a visitor experience that is truly “unique in the world,” says Isser.

It took three years to build crystal recreations of landmarks including the Taj Mahal and the Empire State Building for the “Famos” Chamber of Wonder; these are combined with irreverent videos from Russian artist duo Blue Noses. “Heroes of Peace” brings to life Nobel Peace Prize winners using holographic projection technology. 

“Some people may stay inside for only 40 minutes, but some stay inside for five hours; it really depends on how you feel,” says Isser. 

He pays close attention to visitor feedback, installing “well-lit selfie spots for perfect social media pictures.” There’s also an extensive collection of behind-the-scenes videos and artists’ interviews for guests who want to delve deeper. Last summer, the attraction staged a water show, featuring interactive buttons that hundreds of thousands of people pressed. “People love to interact and be part of a special experience; I think we should go more and more in this direction,” says Isser. 

Tickets for Swarovski Kristallwelten—which include access to the Chambers of Wonder, garden, play tower, and art installations—are 19 euros for adults and 7.50 euros for children ages 6 to 14. The attraction also offers family experience ticket packages.

Teaser_02---credit-(copyright)-Swarovski-Kristallwelten

Swarovski Kristallwelten offers numerous events throughout the year, including the recent “Festival of Light,” which illuminates the attraction at night with light installations and shows

Memorable Events

Swarovski aims to bring people into contact with the brand in innovative ways, and Swarovski Kristallwelten has an active events program, spanning all seasons and stretching from day to night. The third annual “Festival of Light” provided a new reason to visit the attraction in the middle of winter, Isser says. “Light is the soul of crystal; it makes crystal sparkle. We want to delight with light, so a ‘Festival of Light’ was a natural step. We are already working on the fourth edition of the festival.” 

This spectacular event lights up the attraction at night, providing après-ski entertainment during the winter months. “In the garden and in the Chambers of Wonder, we have some surprising touch points for our guests,” says Isser. As well as the illuminations and light shows, there are blacklight discos for children to enjoy in the play tower, and the Daniels Kristallwelten restaurant offers a special “Light Gala” menu.

“The first festivals increased our visitor numbers tremendously,” Isser says. “Also, people gave us great feedback about the strong personal experiences they had, and this is important to us.”

During the rest of the year, visitors can expect a Summer Festival, culinary events, and open-air cinema screenings. “We see a lot of potential for Christmastime,” Isser adds.

Swarovski Kristallwelten is focusing on growing its MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions) business. “We have approximately 350 events per year,” Isser says. Work has started on a new building for weddings and corporate parties, next to the existing restaurant. “Our food and beverage area is growing, and we have more F&B events going on every year,” he says. 

Bright Future Ahead

Swarovski Kristallwelten joined IAAPA last year to build on these achievements. “We would like to learn more about the experience industry, and IAAPA is offering us a very intense exchange of information with industry professionals,” Isser says. “It’s great to start an exchange with different companies, look behind the scenes, and be inspired by what’s going in other segments and areas.”

Just as crystal changes color when it interacts with light, so Swarovski Kristallwelten must become a “multifaceted experience” to continue to shine: “We have to find the right angle so we can meet the expectations of our guests but also have a healthy investment cycle. We have to define our experience in a Swarovski-specific way so that nobody can copy us and we stay unique. That is the challenge for the future,” says Isser.

Swarovski-Chandelier-6
Artist Yayoi Kusama’s “Chandelier of Grief” Chamber of Wonder features a rotating chandelier of Swarovski crystal in a room completely lined with mirrors, creating the illusion of endless space. (Credit: Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, TokyoSingaporeShanghai and Victoria Miro, LondonVenice. © Yayoi Kusama)

Revealing New Wonders

Yayoi Kusama’s only permanent “Infinity Mirror Room” in the world—in addition to her gallery in Tokyo—debuted at Swarovski Kristallwelten in 2018. The artist’s “Chandelier of Grief” is the attraction’s latest Chamber of Wonder. A chandelier of Swarovski crystal rotates at the heart of a room of mirrors: “You lose orientation because you have no touch points,” says Isser. “The longer you stay inside this Chamber of Wonder, the more you see and discover.”

Two new Chambers of Wonder are in development. Isser hopes to open one in summer 2019 and one in November, depending on progress. The Chambers of Wonder are all prototypes: “You cannot buy our experiences anywhere.”

He believes IAAPA members can learn from Swarovski’s attention to detail and its positioning as a premium brand, evoking aspiration, glamor, and magic. Isser, who has been with Swarovski for almost 20 years, has seen the “sparkling, great company” reinvent itself many times. “The Swarovski family is willing to invest into this business model, so it’s a lot of fun.” He hopes future additions to Swarovski Kristallwelten will literally show Swarovski’s work in the best light possible.

www.swarovski.com/kristallwelten


Funworld Contributing Editor Juliana Gilling covers the attractions industry in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Contact her at julianagilling@gmail.com.