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With children for children - as the Szabadics family sees the world

  • Francisck Réka Alíz
"When my father saw that I came up with a more advanced theory than his, he stepped back, giving me space. He always got a feel for it somehow. I also try to practice this with my own sons," says Zoltán Szabadics, with whom we discussed, among other things, the transgenerational value system, in the company of his son, Zoltán Szabadics Jr.
"When my father saw that I came up with a more advanced theory than his, he stepped back, giving me space. He always got a feel for it somehow. I also try to practice this with my own sons," says Zoltán Szabadics, with whom we discussed, among other things, the transgenerational value system, in the company of his son, Zoltán Szabadics Jr.

“Owner of the LUA Resort in Balatonfüred, chief operations officer of the Hungarian Armed Forces, chairman of the board of Balatoni Hajózási Zrt. (BAHART), tourism specialist, philanthropist - can we continue the list?" - I ask Zoltán Szabadics, who sat down to talk with us in the midst of the busiest Christmas preparations. “Husband and Father.” – the immediate answer comes. It can be felt that he is saying this not just in the spirit of the holiday - and this is confirmed by his eldest son Zoltán Szabadics Jr.: "Even though it is not possible for all family members to have lunch together every Sunday, our family is together be it fair or foul, and beyond love we are united by a business and a value system that spans generations, and many, many common goals.”

What are you most proud of?

Z.Sz.: In fact, all our developments point in the same direction: to create lasting things that will not only make the world different, but also better. This was the case already 25 years ago, when we opened our apartment park in the middle of Zalakaros (Karos Garden Family Resort), for those who were not attracted by Zimmer Frei, wanted more than camping, but the hotel was not an option. We built 8 apartments specially calibrated for family vacations, this complex is still in operation today. We are very proud of what we dreamed of in Zalaszabar: 15 years ago, together with my wife, Éva, we created the Holnapocska Camp, where those in need have been vacationing free of charge since then: disadvantaged children, children living in state care or foster care, as well as sick children or children recovering from illness. About 7,000 young people of all ages have already camped here - with us.

Is "with us" literal?

Z. Sz. Jr.: Absolutely. In our family, as soon as someone reaches the age of 14, he/she can decide where, in which facility he/she will go to work in the summer. After the help, I suddenly found myself organizing complete one-week camps. We could also land in the neighbouring adventure park: the camp is actually located in the middle of one of Hungary's largest amusement parks, the Zobor Adventure Park.

 

Z. Sz.: This project of ours also has a history of nearly ten years, during which time the development of services and attractions has been continuous, so that the visit here could be a real adrenaline bomb and a real experience. In cooperation with the Balaton Upland National Park and the Western Transdanubia Water Board, we organize our so-called Little Balaton Construction Camps, where young people do useful work in the national park area in the morning but in the afternoon they can have an adventure in the adventure park - in addition to hiking in the area, or they are at the beach. According to our hopes and experience, this way they can break away from the virtual world, if only for a little while.

Does this mean Zalaszabar is a great love?

Z. Sz.:So much so that we started building a wine estate in this picturesque place, in the former vineyards of Kálmán Baán, 12 years ago. This corner of the knolly Zala is breathtakingly beautiful, from where you can see the entire water surface of the Kis-Balaton, as well as Lake Balaton with Badacsony rising in the distance and the ranges of the Keszthelyi Mountains. The Kányaváry Wine Estate is a true project of love, many people now taste the juices produced on the estate on our wine terrace and relax in our wine guest-house. The festival we dreamed up here, Bor-Zene-Zala, which we will organize for the 6th time in August 2024, with famous performers, is also really successful. With the event, just like with the establishment of the winery, our goal is primarily to promote the precious wine region of Zala, so visitors can taste not only the products of our winemaker Bence Csuka, but also of 5 other excellent winemakers from Zala - including the flagship wine of Zala, Hegyke. This way, our sons can get an insight into event organization and the operation of a winery. By the way, Zoli was so enchanted by the milieu that he completed several courses at the Wine College, including WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) courses and sommelier training.

Has the catering profession sucked you in?

Z. Sz. Jr.: For now, I am still studying at the Budapest University of Economics at the tourism and catering department. I spent my internship at the ÉS bistro of the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest, as well as at the LUA in Balatonfüred, whose executive chef, Károly Pintér, I already had the pleasure of working with in 2020, at the Dubai World Exhibition. Next year, training at Les Roches in Spain will follow.

 

Z. Sz.: Just as we fell in love with Zalaszabar in the old days, we also fell in love with Balatonfüred, but we missed a luxury hotel by the water, where hedonism in the good sense of the word and environmental awareness can coexist, and which provides a truly relaxing environment. That is why the LUA Resort was built in 2022, which is still the only five-star, adult-friendly hotel on the north coast.

I heard that there is one day of the year when the hotel is loud with children's noise.

Z. Sz.: It is now a tradition during the Advent season that we host hundreds of children with a difficult fate here (together with accompanying adults), delighting them with programmes and gifts - my whole family actively participates in the organization of this. We would like to draw the attention of other economic actors to help, if they can, because even the smallest donation counts and pays off morally manifold.

What would be the best lifetime advice and guidance that you received from your father and you would share gladly?

Z. Sz. Jr.: The way he worked in his father's construction company, on weekends and holidays, while he was still attending the military college, is exemplary for me. He always says that it is best if everyone gives the maximum that is expected of themselves. The advice he received from an officer who had served in Afghanistan goes a step further than this: "Remember that in war, the 2nd place is called the losing side!"

 

Z. Sz.: That is why I strive to be first if possible - but of course you also have to be able to lose. We can learn a lot from our mistakes as well. We are people, not robots, and an important message to pass on to my sons is that it is good not only to receive, but also to give.

How are you recharged, what are you inspired by?

Z. Sz.: As far as I am concerned, I am most inspired during a quiet hour spent with a cigar, that is when the ideas come. I can draw energy from the time spent together with my family, and hunting - I can say this on behalf of both of us, since Zoli also passed the hunting test 3 years ago - also has this effect on me. I like to listen to the silence of the forest - no matter how paradoxical it is.

 

Z. Sz. Jr.:  My grandfather took me hunting when I was an infant in arms, the passion for hunting seems to be genetically inherited in our family.

When you retire, if you ever do, what do you want to do?

Z. Sz..: I started Blue Hiking 8 years ago and I want to walk the El Camino pilgrimage route with my wife. It will not happen anytime soon, but it is on the bucket list. It feels good to see that one of my sons is also following in my footsteps.

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