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CHALLENGES Issue of perception. Central and east- ern Europe can suffer from a lack of understanding beyond its borders and the region’s spas are sometimes still regarded as relics of a bygone era with little appeal for the international tourist, when often the reverse is the case. Many properties meet, if not exceed, international standards in terms of value for money, expert therapists who deliver results and fresh, healthy cuisine. They fall in line with today’s appeal for a holistic approach and for non-invasive, natural treatments.


“This region is a leader in the field of well-


ness stemming from the medical approach that uses natural elements. The thermal assets are very good. It just needs to be better translated to the rest of the world, who don’t know,” says Lázsló Puczkó, co-author of the recent book Health, Tourism and Hospitality. Issue of definition. With the rise in wellness tourism comes the idea that wellness is a preventative approach which focuses on personal responsibility for main- taining an optimal state of wellbeing; a step on from the spa concept which has tended to point to relaxation and pampering. This understanding is reversed in central and


Spa Business 1 2014 ©Cybertrek 2014


The price point for spas and health resorts in central and eastern Europe is highly competitive due to the low cost of natural resources and lower staff wages


eastern Europe where ‘spa’ has been the mainstay of rigorous, curative programmes based around the healing powers of mineral and thermal springs. It’s only in recent years that facilities have added what they refer to as wellness programmes, including facials and massages, in order to broaden their market appeal to short-term guests, who want to come purely for rest and relaxation. Hans Dieter Bergmann, director of sales and marketing at Health Spa Pieštany, admits to using words like pampering and wellbeing in marketing materials in order to fill up the weekend business and reach new markets.


“We’re a health spa and medical resort,” he says. “This means different things to differ- ent people so we add key words to respond to market pressure but it leads to confusion. We know our medical side is second to none. Now we pack it up with five-star services.” International service standards and


facilities. Bergmann says that an increas- ing number of spas, like his own Thermia


Palace in Pieštany, are investing in upgrading services, in terms of accommodation, ameni- ties and communal facilities. Many new-build properties embrace an international aesthetic for natural materials. Yet it’s a mark of the transition in this part of the world that some places simply have basic bricks and mortar facilities that don’t always meet the expectations of an international wellness traveller. There can also be a language barrier. But when the treatments are so good and the expertise of therapists so high, such issues should not present an obstacle to such an holistic and affordable wellness offering. l


WELLNESS FACILITIES l Thermia Palace, Slovakia: www.spapiestany.sk


l Tervise Paradiis, Estonia: www.spa.ee l Spa at the Four Seasons Gresham


Palace, Hungary: www.fourseasons.com


l Spa Vilnius Sana, Lithuania: www.spa-vilnius.lt


Sophie Benge is the writer of Healing Sources Email: sophie@sophiebenge.com Tel: +44 7951 056609


Read Spa Business online spabusiness.com/digital 55


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