Opportunities for medical spas in Eastern Europe

New research has identified the challenges and opportunities for thermal and medical spas in four Eastern European countries: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

The WellSpaV4 study: “From Medical to Wellness: What is next for thermal and medical spas in Central and Eastern Europe?” was led by Dr Melanie Smith at Budapest Metropolitan University.

It focused on thermal and medical spa development in the V4 region (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) and analysed the extent to which traditional spas are being adapted to attract and accommodate commercial (non-state-funded) customers and international tourists. This includes the development of infrastructure, the upgrading and regeneration of facilities, the improvement of service quality and the enhancement of visitor experiences. The potential for wellness services and health tourism was a major focus of the research.

The findings highlight similar challenges and opportunities that the thermal and medical spas share in the four countries.

The key challenges were:

  • The problems of meeting quality standards for paying and international customers, but not being able to fund this through state or health insurance funds.
  • State funding has been reduced since 1990 and the number of self-paying customers is slowly rising. EU funds have mainly helped with renovation and infrastructural developments.
  • Low salaries and lack of education for employees and the difficulties of recruiting a qualified workforce.
  • Addressing special needs of different segments of guests. The main priorities should be infrastructural improvements followed by creating quality services for new self-paying local and international customers.

The key opportunities were:

  • Wellness treatments are growing in popularity especially among younger and foreign customers, but emphasis is still placed firstly on physical health restoration.
  • Medical wellness, preventative care and healthy lifestyle advice areas are growing but not yet well established.
  • The main future challenges are connected to further infrastructure, service and quality improvements, for which constant monitoring is required, better segmentation, as well as increasing digitalisation.