Study visit in Siofok, Hungary

Monday, December 10, 2012

At the study tour organized on November 27, 2012, the good practices on senior tourism developments were introduced for the Tourage project partners. The main scene of the study tour was the Thermal Spa at Tamási, where the majority of presentations were held. 

The first presentation was made by Mr. Balázs Ferenczi, on behalf of the Harkány Tourism Association, which also acts as the regional Tourism Destination Management Organization (TDMO). The Association was founded in 2005, and it is providing support for tourism development activities, and enhancing cooperation and communication between relevant stakeholders. The presentation gave an overview about the activities of the Association and about the medical and spa facilities of Harkány, namely the Medical Spa Hospital, the Medical Spa and Bath and the Thermal Hotel****.

The good practice of the organisation includes the tourism packages and discounts offered by the TDMO for Senior tourists (targeting +65 or retired people from Hungary and abroad). The overall goal is to promote senior tourism in low seasons too. Their objective is relevant since Harkány is rich in attractions which are popular among senior tourists. Having a long (almost 200 years) history of medical treatments, the settlement is an internationally well-known spa town. The famous medical water arises from a depth of 50-70 meters with an average temperature of 62.5 ° C. The spa offers various medical treatments, such as the Psoriasis treatment and the Locomotor Disorder Treatment. At Harkány there is also a special Medical Spa Hospital, consisting of various departments, such as dermatology, musculoskeletal department, gynecology and cardiology. The Medical Spa and Bath is open all year. It was completely refurbished in 2003. The Thermal Hotel**** (having 131 rooms) is very popular due to the huge wellness and spa area involving various indoor, outdoor and medicinal pools.

According to a recent survey the most important attractions in which Seniors are interested are the followings: sightseeing (at Pécs, Siklós,Mohács, Szigetvár etc.), nordic walking, hiking, jogging, wine tasting at Villány, as well as visiting the Duna-Dráva National Park, and going to boat trips on river Dráva,

After the presentation on the Medical Spa of Harkány, the managing director of the Thermal Spa of Tamási, Mr. Zoltán Róth guided the project participants through the entire building of the spa. He introduced the facility in details. While he was showing the different pools and wellness facilities, participants could see how handicapped people are able to enjoy the spa services by themselves. Since the uniqueness of the Tamási Thermal Spa is that it is the only one spa in Central-Eastern Europe, which is having the infrastructure for helping handicapped, and visually or hearing impaired people to be able to take the services of a bath. This ability service represents the other good practice in the area.

Besides the handicapped people, the other main target group of the Tamási Thermal Spa is senior tourists (+65 years old). The spa was established in 1972, but receiving EU funds, the facility was reconstructed between 2010 and 2011. The ability spa opened again in last year. The spa is exploiting the benefits of the local thermal water. However, it only provides wellness services and it does not offer any medical treatments yet. By the way, the spa tries to utilize the thermal water as much as it is possible, for instance the heating system of the facility is also ensured by the thermal water.

The big weakness of the Spa is that it lacks an adequate accommodation facility (e.g. thermal hotel or similar). Thus, the hotel can receive only one-day visitors. Building of a hotel is under planning.

After looking around in the spa, the study tour continued outside to visit the Gyulaj Forestry and Hunting Area, where the forest management practices and hunting traditions were introduced briefly.

After arriving back to the Spa in the afternoon, Ms. Bia Ibolya Németh held a short presentation about the other best practice. In the framework of the “Ökocsali” programme, special activities are offered for seniors through a network of tourism service providers in rural areas. The programme was started as a public initiative in 2008, and the cooperation still does not have any legal framework. The “Ökocsali” project is an outstanding good practice, since on one hand it aims to increase the number of seniors involved in eco and rural tourism as tourists, and on the other it helps them to be present in ecotourism as tourism providers (as they know the local heritage, hiking paths and cuisine).

In the presentation, the most important activities of the programme were introduced and illustrated by several photos, for instance: living together with local communities and families, organizing common active programmes with grandchildren, holding cooking competitions, making herbs and curing focused meetings, going hiking, and last but not least, having fun together and learning continuously from each other.

In the evening, one more good practice was introduced about the South-Balaton Wine Route. The presentation was made by Mr. András Bacsa, owner of the Szt. Kristóf Wine Cellar. The presentation started with the introduction of the Balatonboglár wine region, which has a long history. The large-scale wine production started in the 1960s by the State Farm of Balatonboglár. The development of private wine cellars could start only after the privatization in 1992. The region has good natural conditions, deep expertise and increasing reputations (several awards). However, there are many old and outdates plantations, and the processing capacity is neither adequate. But there are favourable changes too. The composition of wine species is increasing, the utilization of modern technology is more widespread, and it has a better position on the domestic market. The South-Balaton wine route was founded in 1999. It works on a non-profit base in the form of an association. It expands to the whole territory of the wine region. The most important goals are developing wine tourism services, helping the promotion of local wines, enhancing wine tourism supply and strengthening of the cooperation between vine growers and other tourism services.

In order to be a member of the wine route, suppliers should meet the criteria of the qualification system (developed in the framework of an Interreg program in 2007). The unified qualification system is applied now by 14 wine routes in 3 countries: 6 wine routes in Hungary, 5 wine routes in Italy (Friuli-Venezia provinces) and 4 wine routes in Spain (in Ciudad Real province).


Author: István Hegedûs, Lake Balaton Development Coordination Agency