Iztok Altbauer

Iztok Altbauer

 

Director of the Slovenian Spa Association

 

 

 

 

 

With its none-more-enviable geographical position and geological diversity, it should come as no surprise that Slovenia has a rich tapes- try of spas attracting huge numbers of visitors every year. Health tourism has become one of the most vital sectors of the tourist industry with around a third of all overnight stays emanating from this area, a number that could continue to rise as the need for relaxation becomes stronger in our heady modern times. Slovenia has an abundance of natural riches as well as the luxury of both sea and mountain climates, leading to a variety of spas offering health, recreation, relaxation and much more. Fancy feeling the natural therapeutic e ects of thermal waters? In need of a massage or a sauna to rid yourself of built-up tension? The spas of Slovenia not only o er this, but more often than not it is ordered in naturally beautiful surroundings. The Slovenian Spa Association therefore plays an important role in tourism in Slovenia. Their website (www.slovenia-terme.si) is the informative hub that one would expect from such an over-arching organisation, so head there for more information about the various offers available. The managing director of the association is Professor Iztok Altbauer, and he has been in the position since 2008. A German and Sociology graduate from the University of Ljubljana, we had the pleasure of a brief chat with Prof. Altbauer about the spas of Slovenia, the people who frequent them and the future. 

WHY SHOULD FOREIGN TOURISTS COME TO SLOVENIA FOR A SPA HOLIDAY?
First of all we would like to give them a unique experience, where 15 natural Spa and health resorts will await them with a variety of programmes that suit all their needs and wishes. These 15 Slovenian thermal baths and natural Spas are developed on the grounds of a rich heritage. The traditional stories and specialties of this cultural landscape mingle with medical knowledge of the highest rank and the feel for the beauty of body and mind along with the individual needs of modern man. The principle of the healthy lifestyle cherished at Slovenian Spas rests on cultural traditions many centuries old, and the experience in balneology, climatology and thalassic therapy.

HOW HAS SLOVENIA’S SPA SECTOR CHANGED OVER THE PAST DECADE?
From traditional medical spa rehabilitation centres, Slovenian Spas have developed into modern spa and Wellness centres, where a holistic approach will be applied to every demand. There has been a strong investment cycle, where new and modern state-of-the-art hotels and wellness centres were build. The sector has gained approximately 1,500 new beds in hotels and apartments and numerous new swimming pools filled with thermal water. With this, focus in some resorts widened, with a special focus on those looking for relaxing and inspiring programmes for mind, body and spirit. But we also preserved and continued our development in the medical and rehabilitation Spa departments. We also developed some new programmes, especially in the eld of prevention and specialised programmes such as detox, rejuvenation and weight loss.

WHAT ARE THE MOST POPULAR SPA RESORTS IN SLO- VENIA FOR FOREIGN TOURISTS?
The demand of foreign tourists for Slovenian Spas is constantly grow- ing and at the moment accounts for on average 45% of all overnights. In some of the 15 Spa resorts the percentage is even higher and it de- pends on their main o er (medical Spa, wellness, thermal water parks) or location (close to the Croatian or Austrian border, or at the seaside).

FROM WHICH COUNTRIES DO GUESTS AT SLOVENIAN SPAS COME FROM?
In 2013, the Austrians took a strong lead over tourists from Italy, followed by Croatia, Germany, Russia and Serbia. There was also a significant increase in arrivals by guests from Belgium, Israel, Czech Republic and Poland.

HOW DO THE SPAS IN SLOVENIA’S DIFFERENT REGIONS DIFFER FROM ONE ANOTHER?
The difference in the Spa o er is in fact quite big and depends in the medical Spa departments at the proven natural healing sources, like thermal or mineral waters, peat, mud, air, salt pan brine, the so called Aqua Madre, sea water, aerosols and others, that determine what kind of medical problems will be alleviated through rehabilitation and healing procedures. On the other hand, new development in wellness and thermal water parks in some Spas determine the general o er and programmes. Another factor is that we also have Spas on the Adriatic coast, enabling us to extend our o er to the Thallassotherapies not available in our main competition countries like Austria, Hungary or Slovakia.

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON HEALTH AND WELL- NESS TREATMENTS OFFERED AT SLOVENIAN SPAS?
The range of the offer is so big, that we can hardly speak about one common treatment, except for the prevalence of saunas and massages. The various natural healing sources generally deter- mine the wide range of offers, and in addition we claim several decades of scientific development in the co-use of nature with medical knowledge. So just to mention some, like the “Black waer”, Donat Mg (the world’s leading healing drinking water, with the highest content of magnesium per litre), “Radenska Tri Srca” healing drinking water, “Paraffin water” and the Adriatic sea water and air - each one has a common treatment and yet all are very different.

HOW DO YOU THINK SLOVENIA’S SPA SECTOR WILL CHANGE AND DEVELOP IN THE COMING YEARS?
We analysed our o er and made a benchmark analysis with some leading Spa destinations and countries and found that there is a strong need for more diversi cation of our Spas, especially in the wellness o er. Also, more use of unique programmes – stories in- cluding the natural environment is a big trend that should be fol- lowed. More success can also be had by increasing connections and developing programmes with the local tourist organisation, which represents a complementary o er and not competition. While it’s likely that not many more facilities will be built, we will work on the product and increase the quality of it. We shall also strengthen the brand Slovenia, Land of Health, and promote the power of Slovenian natural Spas, making them more known in foreign markets and to tourists who haven’t been to Slovenia before.