site.btaUPDATED Tourism Minister: Bulgaria Has Leading Role in Spa and Wellness Tourism in Southeastern Europe
Bulgaria has a leading role in spa and wellness tourism in Southeastern Europe, said caretaker Tourism Minister Ilin Dimitrov at the opening of the first ever thematic conference within the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) dedicated to spa and wellness tourism titled "Education and Skills in Health and Wellness Tourism". The forum is part of Bulgaria's hosting of the 68th Session of UNWTO’s Regional Commission for Europe, which is held between May 31 to June 2.
Dimitrov pointed out that in recent years an extremely large number of spa and wellness facilities have been built in the country, while the investments in this tourism area are "numerous and successful". “Our hotels have an annual occupancy rate of 89% and we have more than 70 resorts and venues in the country that offer this type of service,” the Tourism Minister added. He reminded that Bulgaria ranks first in Europe in the number of mineral springs, and the hottest mineral springs are located in the country - in Sapareva Banya.
Dimitrov noted that the biggest advantage of this type of tourism is that it is accessible throughout the year, which generates serious added value.
He pointed out that the future of tourism is linked to the education of the staff and reminded that there are many programmes, projects and instruments at European level to "support the ambition of young people", adding that the Erasmus programme is just one of them. “I welcome the approach to work not only on the education of the staff, but to direct them to specific niches of tourism,” Dimitrov said. In this sense, he pointed out that Bulgaria has a lot to offer in the field of medical and wellness tourism and that more than half of the students in Bulgarian medical universities are foreigners – “a proof of the quality of education our country offers”.
Addressing the conference, Zurab Pololikashvili - Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization, said that, in the wake of the pandemic many tourists have changed their attitude and ways of travelling, taking an interest in the health systems of the countries they visit, as well as in opportunities to improve their health and well-being.
European Spas Association President Thierry Dubois said that the spa industry has a significant economic impact. He presented a 6-year study on the impact of the spa industry in France. The European health tourism market has grown by more than 10%, year-on-year, he reported, adding that there are some 1,400 spa destinations in Europe, where more than 1 million people are employed directly or indirectly. The annual turnover of the spa industry in Europe exceeds EUR 5 trillion, Dubois also said.
European Spas Association Secretary General Csilla Mezosi highlighted the leading role of European resorts and their significant contribution in treating and managing effects of long COVID-19 in the last 3 years. In her words, it is estimated that some 4 million EU citizens need special spa therapy for treating post-COVID effects. Mezosi also highlighted the great social impact of medical and spa tourism on the sustainable development of rural areas and local communities.