Poland enjoys boom in luxury wellness and spa hotels

By bne IntelliNews November 13, 2007

Bogdan Turek in Warsaw -

As well as building more hotels, Poland is also now building more lavish ones. The country is experiencing a boom in the construction of luxurious and medium-class wellness and spa hotels to the meet demands of a fast-growing clientele.

"Spas are mushrooming," says Zbigniew Bugaj, CEO of the Institute of Hotelier Market (IRH) headquartered in Warsaw. "The trend among hotel owners is to attach spa and wellness services to attract more clients."

According to Bugaj, there are currently about 50 luxurious spas plus a total of 1,114 hotels across the country. But the situation is quickly changing, as those 50 are not considered enough to meet the demands of individuals or corporate clients which send their workers for integration sessions or courses to improve their knowledge.

Some experts predict that about 500 spa hotels will be operational within the next five years. Teresa Buczak, a hotel expert in the Chief Statistical Office (GUS), said hotels and spas hosted 11.3m people in 2006, 7.3% more than in 2005. Out of the total, 33% were foreigners. That compares with the 20% growth rate of spa clients in Poland for the same period, even though the cost in a high-class spa is around PLN1,500 (€415) a day. Another 4% rise is expected both in 2007 and 2008 due to the stable economic situation that is helping GDP grow at about 5% annually.

Cheap airlines using modernized airports in Krakow, Wroclaw, Poznan and Katowice will add to the higher occupancy, Buczak says. Also, compared with other countries, "There are still too few hotels in Poland," says Buczak.

There are 40 beds per 10,000 people in Poland, while Slovakia has 105 beds, Hungary 156 and Austria 700. "The increase of direct foreign and domestic investments causes managers to travel on business around the country." she says. "People who earn more in Poland also want to spend free time outside their homes."

There's yet another reason for the growth: "Those who take part in various conferences have become choosey and they do not want to come to the same spas or hotels," Buczak says. Some leading hoteliers have already cashed in on the trend by opening new spa facilities this year.

Checking in

And those who want to enter the hotel business also see which way the wind is blowing. Katarzyna Kostrzynska, marketing chief in the European School of Hoteliers and Tourism in Sopot on the Baltic coast, said out of a total of 645 students enrolled in October as first-year students, 165 joined the newly opened wellness and spas department. There are about 2,000 students in the school. "There is a growing trend to have wellness and spas at every hotel now," says Kostrzynska. "It permits hotels to operate all year round as spas bring additional inflow of income - and raise the prestige of the hotels."

Kostrzynska says the new students made a well thought-out decision to join the new department, as they will get versatile knowledge as well as the prospect of working on their own. Students will study management, marketing, rehabilitation techniques and cosmetics, hydrotherapy and the use of European funds. "They will know better how to use EU funds to open their own hotels," she says.

There is an abundance of money offered by the European Commission for such economic projects, which require the preparation of a feasibility study and approval by the local governments. The Commission approved in May 2007 Poland's plan to use €67bn for the economy in the years 2007-2013.

At a conference of hotel experts in Warsaw in October, Pawel Stepniak, an official from the Innovation Relay Centre Network, an organization established in 1995 by the European Commission to promote the transfer of technologies and innovation services, announced he was ready to help new entrepreneurs to develop their own businesses in the area of hotels.

He said that the province of Mazovia, which includes Warsaw and is home to 3.5m inhabitants, is set to spend €370m during 2007-2013 for economic projects, including hotels. The cost of the project may not be smaller than PLN600,000 or larger than PLN8m to qualify for a grant of up to 60% of the cost of the project.

It's no doubt a booming business. Two spas in Krynica and Wysoka Wies owned by Dr. Irena Iris, a producer of cosmetics and owner, each attract 3,000 clients yearly, according to her economic director Tomasz Pecka.

The ultimate in luxury spas will likely be a new €10m hotel to be opened in Polanica, south-western Poland, by Grazyna Kulczyk - the richest woman in Poland, herself worth $900m. Its development details are cloaked in secrecy, but it's expected to cater to guests from Germany and Austria. "It will be the most modern spa in Poland," asserts Dariusz Krupiec, deputy mayor of Polanica.

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