Thermal/Mineral Springs: Insights on Reopening, Resetting, Reimaging Takeaways

The Global Wellness Collaborations bring industry leaders together in meaningful dialogue to share ideas and best practices for navigating the COVID-19 crisis around a specific industry segment.

Topic:Thermal/Mineral Springs: Insights on Reopening, Resetting, Reimaging
Date of Discussion: July 7, 2020
Countries/Regions Represented: Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, UAE, UK, US, US Minor.

    • Australia
      • Victoria, Australia reopened on June 8, but, disappointingly, less than a month later, the Premier (Governor) announced that the whole state of Victoria had to close down again for a further six weeks.
      • The rules we did have in place included some very basic principles: a four-meter square gap between people, a maximum of 20 guests in the indoor areas like cafes and only 10 guests in smaller areas, and constant sanitation.
      • Whenever people come in, we were required to get their contact names and telephone numbers so they can do contact tracing. This way, they can track down who has been infected, how to track them down, and their network. We’re not allowed any saunas and steam rooms in our facilities to open. And we do have the option of temperature checking guests, but a lot of people don’t. Also, face masks aren’t a very prevalent feature in Australia, rightly or wrongly, but they’re not.
      • Our general bathing has dropped to about 36% of normal. The main reason is because the government regulated changes in visitation numbers; it’s not demand-driven. At this stage, we are running at nearly 100% of bookings available, but it still means that our numbers are way down.
      • What we really need to be able to do is move to a low volume/high yield model, which means charging higher prices for private experiences. We have developed these whole dome areas where people can walk out in private spaces. And we’re just about to introduce glamping tents and have 100 of them around the property where people can stay overnight. So, we’re introducing accommodations and allowing people to have their own private spaces.

     

      • Czech Republic

     

      • We started to open up in early May for medical health guests in Eastern Europe. Throughout June, we began to see an easing of restrictions for more guests. Now, about half of our properties are open: two in the Czech Republic, three in Hungary, only one in Romania, and four or five in Slovakia. Some, sadly, will not open till next year.
      • The knock-on effect of that actually is the economic and social devastation to some of the small communities that we operate in. We were frequently the largest employer.
      • As soon as we started to reopen, there was a shift in the spirit of the town and, of course, our staff—everybody is just desperate to get back to work again. We’re seeing occupancies ranging from 25% to 80%. Typically, at this time of the year, our properties would be running at 80+%. Some of them are beginning to get back to that; some of them are still very slow to start.
      • In terms of government restrictions, they’ve varied in various European countries. But again, by and large, they’ve now begun to open up. You know, they were just outdoor restaurants. Now we can have indoor restaurants for spa facilities open. There’s no issues around steam rooms.
      • This feedback is interesting. Obviously, we put all of the proper hygiene protocols in place. Some of our guests, they really are just not interested in the protocols.
      • No guests have complained that we’re not doing enough. It’s comforting to know that we’ve hit the standard in terms of giving guests sufficient comfort to come and enjoy.
      • We are now focused on the domestic market, local/regional market—those who can drive anywhere from six to eight hours to our properties.
      • International flights are basically off the table.

     

      • Japan

     

      • According to the latest survey report (May 2020) released by the Japan tourism agency, the occupation ratio of ryokan Japanese style baths was only 5.3%. That is -76.2% year-on-year, and the resort hotel was only 3.6% occupancy. That is down 56% year-on-year, and city hotels were only 8.9%, down 71%.
      • The government said it believes that the spread of the novel coronavirus has been kept in check. Long-distance passengers started returning to the railway station and the airports, and a number of entertainment venues just opened.
      • According to a recent survey, the majority of Japan’s resort hotels have a booking ratio of 30% to 50% for July and August. And the majority of the business hotels have a booking ratio of less than 10% for July and August.
      • The reason why resort hotels have a higher booking ratio than the others is likely due to the destinations.
      • About 70% of the customers attach special importance to the execution and the explanation of the hygiene and safety guidelines. And many of them are allowing additional costs for this.

     

      • Colorado, USA

     

      • In essence, every state in the United States has its own regulations, so I’m going to speak mainly about Colorado.
      • Hotels were never required to be closed in Colorado; they’re considered a critical infrastructure. We closed down in mid-March. As a resort and the largest attraction in our community, we felt it was the right thing to do.
      • Hot springs were also never officially closed in Colorado; however, they did seem to wind down around a similar time.
      • Many hot spring resorts began to reopen in May and then were officially deemed to be opened in early June.
      • So, since those reopenings have occurred, what we’ve seen hotel-wise in June is our occupancy is down only about 10% from last year. Our occupancy last year in June would have been around 90%. This year it was about 80%. In urban markets, we’re seeing where occupancy would have been 65% to 70% but is at about 30%.
      • This is kind of expected behavior from past closures unrelated to pandemics. The destination getaways and resorts and “drive-to” markets tend to be the areas of interest to consumers. All of our customers drive to us; almost no one is flying to visit us.
      • The pools are allowed to be open but at a 50% occupancy. Showers and food and beverage venues are also allowed to be open generally at a similar 50% occupancy restriction. Interestingly, locker rooms are not allowed to be open.
      • People are asking for distancing and space.
      • The guidelines that exist in Colorado are hourly disinfectants of common areas and cleaning of any spa equipment between uses with heavy disinfectants and other spaces with prescribed regularity.
      • Some pools are requiring reservations; others are first come first served. There’s a lot of pent-up customer demand. So, reservations are filling up immediately.
      • We’ve formed a hot springs business and trade association, and we’re holding weekly conferences to manage the ever-changing situation.
      • Issues include having to turn away a lot of business. Finding staff has also been difficult. There’s a bit of resistance from guests to wear masks, so that’s been a little awkward for employees.
      • COVID numbers are spiking in the US. So, of course, owner/operators are fearing full closures again, and they’re just really concerned that it isn’t economically viable to operate much longer.

     

      • China

     

      • By the end of 2017, China had 2,538 hot springs in operation and almost all of them have been reopened and are operating normally, both the private pools and the rooms and spas and all kinds of therapies.
      • Compared to last year, revenue has dropped by 40% to 50%. But in some big cities that are well developed, the higher-end businesses are doing better. We think this is because high-end hot springs have better privacy and also have better hygiene standards.
      • One thing special in the Chinese market is that almost all the hot springs have provided free vouchers for the medical staff who have worked against the epidemic.
      • And, now in our city, we are conducting important research about how to bring in wellness. For example, one is about using hot springs to treat sleeping disorders, chronic diseases and joint pain. We are combining hot springs therapies with traditional Chinese medicine.

     

      • Slovenia

     

      • In Slovenia, we were able to reopen our hotels and our spas on June 1. The first spa started to receive patients for rehabilitation purposes. The majority of our spa hotels are being reopened now. The government started to introduce tourism vouchers to help to boost the tourism economy. So, each adult received a voucher of 200 euro equal to US$56, and every child is entitled as well. And immediately the telephone started to ring in our booking offices. It was an incredible achievement in a two-week timeframe.
      • In the last couple of days, our phones have gone really wild, and we can report bookings at 70% to 100% of capacity. I believe this will go on all through September, with the majority of clients benefiting from the vouchers, but regular bookings are also taking place.
      • The ratio is 90% domestic and only 10% foreign guests. The majority of our guests come from Austria, Germany and neighboring Hungary and Croatia.

     

      • Czech Republic

     

      • The Czech Republic is doing a voucher program too. A 300 euro voucher for people to go and stay specifically in spa hotels, not any hotel, but specifically spa hotels.
      • Since they announced it about three or four days ago, the phone has been ringing.

     

      • USA

     

      • I know that the US travel Association has introduced legislation to that effect, but nothing has come from it, but they are working on it.
      • I’m in Arizona, and one of our US senators has proposed a travel credit, but at least looking at the chatter in social media, she’s sort of meeting with a lot of opposition that it’s more of a luxury. So, I’m not sure how well that is going to go over, but it was a $2,000 credit that was being proposed.
      • Everybody will find that if we can work from the house, we can work from the resorts as well. So, many of the leading spa resorts are now providing a workstation program.

       

      • CHAT:
      • High-end brands have the money to supply PPE and other sanitation measures.
      • Today’s info from the Polish Ministry of Health: In Poland, 15k candidates, guests for stays in mineral springs, have been tested. Among them were only 27 positive COVID patients. It is 1.8 per mil.
      • All facilities are opened, even the largest indoor water park in Europe. Park of Poland.
      • The European Waterpark Association has given Professor Reich the order to do research on COVID-19 and the spa rooms and how this affects COVID-19 on saunas and on wet rooms. The finished study says that we are safer places than anywhere because our air conditioner and ventilation will take away the COVID-19 up to the air. And what we could do, we could ask the European Waterpark Association if they will translate it into English and give it to us.
      • What new systems and policies have been created or are being used to anticipate and respond to the closing – reopening – closing – reopening that we can anticipate will continue in response to COVID?
      • What a fantastic initiative by the Slovenian government to boost wellness tourism!
      • In Poland, saunas and steam rooms are open.
      • I’ve been many times to hotels and resorts in Austria, and really it is business as usual, not even masks.
      • Italy is doing the same, and the local hotel federation has met with the government to suggest the best practice to put in place.
      • Germany started slower in the spa industry, but everyone is thriving to get to business as usual. It’s in human nature.
      • As an integrated physician with a focus on pain, chronic disease, occupational and ecological medicine, I have noticed a pattern. In view of the heavy-duty use of disinfectants, any suggestions for medical spas who look after patients with multiple chemical sensitivities and eco-friendly disinfection protocols? Thank you.
      • Spas, saunas, springs need to get better at e-communication and all digital, “creating” a demand and, of course, a demand for their products and services. Better digital communication.
      • While protocols and disinfectants are mandatory, has ventilation and airflow quality been addressed?
      • 70% of the thermal towns reopened in France two weeks ago.
      • S.A.M. Scientific Air Management
      • This week is a big week for spa towns reopening throughout Europe.
      • Here is the Slovenia Green & Safety Standards.
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