Health Tourism in Hungary: History, Its Revaluation and Tendencies

By Molnar, Csilla | Journal of Tourism Challenges and Trends, July 2010 | Go to article overview
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Health Tourism in Hungary: History, Its Revaluation and Tendencies


Molnar, Csilla, Journal of Tourism Challenges and Trends


History of health tourism

As it may have excelled from those beforehand, tourism--and health tourism may only be considered as a relatively new social and economical tendency in its present form and to its present degree, as even in the ancient times travel was part of people's lives.

Heritage of the Roman Empire and Middle Ages: the opening of the Hungarian spa-culture

The bases of health tourism were laid in the Roman Empire, as bathing was an important part of that lifestyle. The "thermae" and the "balnea" were on one hand serving bathing, self-cleaning purposes, on the other hand they were important scenes of social life [Hungarian Spa Association--National Szechenyi Library (2004). As the Roman bathing culture had its impact on the occupied territories, so in Pannonia too, 15 Roman baths were functional. Among them the most famous one was Aquincum, today found on the territory of Budapest. (Borszeki 1979). Nowadays, these baths establish the connection between the health-, cultural-and heritage-tourism. They also represent the leading products of the Tourism Development Strategy (2005) of Hungary. The historic monument baths found in Europe--in a great number on the territories of Hungary and Transylvania--represent special attractions and unique sales proposals (USP).

The baths of the early Middle Ages served solely for healing purposes, usually belonged to some kind of asylum hospitals, which unequivocally arose from the severe religious and social prescriptions. This approach slowly changed by the late Middle Ages due to the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, which also developed a famous bathing culture. The hamam combines the functionality and the structural elements of its predecessors in Anatolia, the Roman thermae and Byzantine baths, with the Central Asian Turkish tradition of steam bathing, ritual cleansing and respect of water. It is also a known fact that Arabs have built many of their own versions of the Greek-Roman baths. The ruins that weathered these times also mean the survivorship of the past within the tourism and are considered to be the most beloved development trends of baths nowadays. Budapest has four working Turkish Baths (all from the 16th century): Rudas, Kiraly, Csaszar and the newly reconstructed Racz Thermal Bath (Gerevich (1975). Some of new developments (for example) the Hamam of the Aquasziget Esztergom, the Arab Bath of Hotel Shiraz Egerszalok or Semira Day Spa Hotel Balaton based on elements of this culture offering not only special architecture, but also unique services.

In the 166th and 17th centuries the bathing culture spread mainly in Italy, Germany and France, but there were new baths being built is Hungary (Eger, Gyula, Pecs) as well. The analysis of healing waters started [Hungarian Spa Association--National Szechenyi Library (2004).

The 18th and 19th century: the golden-ages

The foundations of the wellness tourism as we know it today were established in the 188th and 19th centuries by J.S. Hahn, V. Priessnitz and S. Kneipp.

The last quarter of the 19th century witnessed the birth of modern bathing therapy and balneology. The mass fashion to attend baths emerges, most of the well known bath resorts being found on the territory of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy (Balatonfured, Postyen, Herkulesfurdo, Balf, Tarcsafurdo, Oradea, Harkany, Buzias for example). It became more and more fashionable to spend vacations at the favorite places of the imperial house. Entertainment facilities, catering, promenades, theatrical performances, casinos (1) countermarked those places. One of the most popular health-resorts was Balatonfured. The investments by state grant became typical mainly in Hungarian and Czech territories and resulted in internationally known and acknowledged services (Kosa 1999).

Health tourism of nowadays

In the 20th century mass-tourism evolved. Europe is the biggest market of tourism and due to its excellent facilities and natural resources it boasts the largest health tourism as well.

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