The FINANCIAL — The ads are alluring and impossible to miss: a tranquil atmosphere featuring relaxed and beautiful people, all of whom presumably got that way by living the “spa” life.
Universally, the word spa is associated with stress reduction and relief, soothing sore joints and muscles, and simply feeling better about oneself. Moreover, going to a spa is a way of getting taken care of that is psychologically and culturally acceptable. We can even carry that feeling of being cared for with us for some time after the spa visit and more often than not that can help us cope better with stress.
Lately, Georgia has become further acknowledged as the world’s tourist destination and a constantly growing number of international arrivals for such a petite country can serve as a solid proof: in 2015, international arrivals reached its record number of 5 901 094 visits. However, according to the statistics published by GNTA, only 38.7% of visits lasted longer than 24 hours. To prolong international visitors’ stay, as well as to attract more tourists with a higher purchasing power, Georgia should think over new ways to position itself as a top tourist destination. The undiscovered potential can be unveiled in promotion of spa resorts across the country rich in mud and mineral springs, according to Experto Consulting.
Spa resorts are an indispensable pillar for Georgia to become a country of wellness tourism, especially when it has all the predispositions for fulfillment of this aspiration because of its reserves of mineral water and mud with unique features. According to Mr. Andro Jishkariani, the Director of Tskaltubo Spa Resort, spa resorts contribute directly to promotion of wellness and off season tourism because the medical treatment offered by spa resorts implies a necessity of repeated procedures and a prolonged stay. Having mentioned spa resorts as part of medical treatment, it is important to underline the fact that spa in itself is also a part of service of a fast developing sector of luxurious hotels. Along with it, the most interesting perspectives for investments are to be found in improving and extending tourist infrastructure of spa resorts located in Tskaltubo, Utsera, Borjomi, Likani, Sairme, Abastumani and Akhtala.
Among the abovementioned sites, Borjomi is the only one that has already created a brand name for itself. Mr. Giorgi Danelia, Deputy Head of Investment Department at JSC Partnership Fund, informs that this achievement can be explained due to a well-known brand Borjomi selling mineral water across the world as well as to the presence of internationally reputable hotels such as Crowne Plaza. Taking into consideration the fact that Borjomi has already become a popular tourist destination, new construction projects of hotels and tourist facilities should be previewed to satisfy the on-growing demand.
As far as Tskaltubo is concerned, it was one of the most popular resorts during the Soviet times. It was even conceived due to a special master plan: all the sanatoriums were built around mineral radon waters. These waters are unique in the world: the springs come out of the ground without even being pumped. They achieve human body temperature and have the necessary elements to treat different diseases. Mr. Jishkariani elaborates that this water is for external use and helps people suffering from the diseases of locomotor apparatus, cardiovascular and nervous systems, as well as gynecological and skin problems. Currently, after the collapse of the soviet system, there is only one operating sanatorium out of historic 16 in Tskaltubo. This sanatorium has been privatized and transformed into the privately owned Tskaltubo Spa Resort hotel. The same business group has also constructed a wellness and medical treatment centre on the territory adjacent to the hotel. According to Mr. Jishkariani, the installed spa equipment was partially bought in France.
The feasibility studies prepared by the tourism and hotel consulting company Kohl & Partner mentions a wide range of opportunities for foreign investments in Tskaltubo: construction of 9 hotels, medical and rehabilitation centers, spa installations, an amusement park and playgrounds, training centers, as well as development of river transport. In order to manage the set facilities, a corporation of the engaged entrepreneurs will be created. The Georgian National Investment Agency informs that Tskaltubo resort has a potential to become the second largest spa resort in the world due to uniqueness of its water features. Even the French company Vichy, having around 13 spa resorts across the world, has become very interested in Tskaltubo for its radon waters.
Another prospective resort for spa installations is to be found in Racha region, particularly, in the village Utsera. Utsera is rich in mineral water resources with more than 28 different types of liquid fit for treatment. The village can become a departure point for hiking and other health-related outdoor activities. Invest in Georgia promotes the development of an 80-key, non-branded, midmarket hotel with spa and medical department with mineral water based treatment rooms presumably called Medhotel Utsera. The tourist infrastructure in Utsera is yet to be developed. The same situation is in the slim detox. Due to different available formulas, the companies should be able to differentiate their offer and, in this way, define their unique profile that can vary from simple relaxation procedures to such serious medical treatments as plastic surgery.
Having necessary natural resources as well as sites for further infrastructure extension, spa business turns out to be indeed an attractive suggestion for the foreign investors. Its development will contribute to the evolution of Georgia as a sustainable tourist destination offering high quality services to its target audiences – Georgian citizens and international visitors alike.
And yet, we need to keep in mind that among the biggest spa draws are the exotic treatment offerings and the equally exotic promises. The promises can go from the simple to the outrageous. It is vital to have sensible expectations of what each spa procedure can realistically offer to your body and your peace of mind.
This report is exclusively provided to The FINANCIAL.
About Experto: French-Georgian consulting company EXPERTO provides market entry services for foreign companies interested in the Caucasus markets.