Therapeutic spa treatments like hot springs baths have attracted thousands of guests to Piešťany's Thermia Palace.
foto: Jana Obertová
Were Winter alive today, he would find his vision a reality. Since the building of Thermia Palace, five other spas have opened on what is now referred to as 'Spa Island' in Piešťany and all of them have traditionally been a popular vacation getaway for foreigners and Slovaks alike. A glimpse at the pages of Thermia Palace's guest book shows visits by celebrities ranging from Czech hockey star Jaromír Jágr and German super model and highway ribbon-cutter Claudia Schiffer to Slovak opera star Peter Dvorský and the infamous Vladimír Mečiar.
But so far this year, the number of foreign visitors to Slovakia has decreased - bad news for an industry that says 60% of its clientele are foreign. In fact, according to spa representatives, not even their celebrated history has been able to steer the Piešťany Spas clear of a 10% decrease in visitors so far this year.
However, Zdenko Raušlo, Thermia Palace Director, says he is not worried about the drop in the long term. According to Raušlo, the decline in foreign visitors is a result of negative publicity related to the war in Kosovo.The combination of an altered marketing scheme and the end of the conflict, he said, will soon have the spas enjoying their old numbers.
"Foreign visitors are a little bit down, and we had some cancellations from places like the United States and Egypt, specifically because of the war," Raušlo said. "We had a group come from Florida and they said that some of their friends cancelled their trips because they were afraid."
As a result, Piešťany Spa's Public Relations Director Jana Obertová said, the spa would change their business strategy in order to "target new areas" abroad.
Raušlo said that one of the changes would be to focus on Austrians, currently the second most common foreign nationality to visit the spas behind Germany. Austria's close proximity to Slovakia makes it an intelligent target, Raušlo said.
"We need more visitors from Austria because they are our neighbour country," he said. "For other visitors, there is a transportation problem where they have to fly for eight or ten hours and then still get to Piešťany from Bratislava. But with Austrians it's different."
As the spa tries to focus on their neighbour, one American said that visitors from any country would be pleased with a visit to the Piešťany Spas. Marjorie Lewis, an American from Harlem, said that she has been visiting Thermia Palace almost every year for thirty years since she had been diagnosed with arthritis.
"My mother had always performed what they now call 'alternative medicine' on us kids at the beach," she said, explaining that she had been buried in wet sand as therapy for ailments such as sore muscles. "When I was diagnosed, I didn't want to take cortisone and a Russian friend of mine told me about Piešťany, so I came... and I've been coming."
Lewis playfully balked at the idea of printing her age, but said that the spa "kept her looking young" with its relaxing mud baths renowned to possess healing powers. "Look, whether or not it's true [about the healing powers], I love the place and that's why I've always come here," she said. "I'm very comfortable."
The six most common foreign visitors to the spas are from, in order, Germany, Austria, Israel, the United States, Arabic countries and the Netherlands, Raušlo said.
2. Aug 1999 at 0:00 | Chris Togneri