TOP Slovenia Interview: IZTOK ALTBAUER

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Iztok Altbauer

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Iztok Altbauer, Managing Director of the Slovenian Spas Association. Read the full interview here.

With its none-more-enviable geographical position and geological diversity, it should come as no surprise that Slovenia has a rich tapestry of Spas attracting huge numbers of visitors every year. Health, Spa & Wellness 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 effects of thermal waters? In need of a massage or a sauna to rid yourself of built-up tension? The Spas of Slovenia not only offer this, but more often than not it is offered in naturally beautiful surroundings.

The Slovenian Spas Association therefore plays an important role in tourism in Slovenia. Their website (www.slovenia-spa.si) is the informative hub that one would expect from such an overarching 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.



Iztok Altbauer interview

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 built. 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, pampering 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 successful are those including detox, rejuvenation and weight loss.

WHAT ARE THE MOST POPULAR SPA RESORTS IN SLOVENIA FOR FOREIGN TOURISTS?
The demand of foreign tourists for Slovenian Spas is constantly growing and at the moment accounts for on average 51% of all overnights. In some of the 15 Spa resorts the percentage is even higher and it depends on their main offer (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 2019, Austrians are still holding the strong lead over tourists from Italy, followed by Croatia, Germany, Serbia and the Netherlands. There was also a significant increase in arrivals by guests from Check Republic, Poland, Israel, Denmark and Hungary.

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HOW DO THE SPAS IN SLOVENIA’S DIFFERENT REGIONS DIFFER FROM ONE ANOTHER?
The difference in the Spa offer 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 offer and programmes. Another factor is that we also have Spas on the Adriatic coast, enabling us to extend our offer to the Thallassotherapies not available in our main competition countries like Austria, Hungary or Slovakia.

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON HEALTH AND WELLNESS 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 determine 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 water”, 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 offer and made a benchmark analysis with some leading Spa destinations and countries and found that there is a strong need for more diversification of our Spas, especially in the Wellness offer. Also, more use of unique programmes – stories including the natural environment is a big trend that should be followed. More success can also be had by increasing connections and developing programmes with the local tourist organisations, which represents a complementary offer 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.

Source: THE Slovenia Book