Sociology Index

Health Tourism in Russia

Medical Tourism

Healthy Health Spas Passed on to Health Tourism

The average age of spas' customers is 30-50 years. About 40% of guests are regular clients. The most popular seasons are spring (when chronical health problems acute) and summer (period of holidays and traditionally preferable season for travel in Russia).

As Russian spas now have to face competition in the national market with outbound trips, standards of comfort will have to be urgently introduced at spas - to improve design and to upgrade services.

Obviously, it's too early to make any conclusions on the future of Russian resort heritage. However, there is a strong chance for its development and rediscovery on the basis of health tourism.

Health treatment at spas as an applied area of knowledge, dedicated to the aims of improvement and rehabilitation of health and based on the studies of curative properties of natural factors, refers to obvious achievements of Russian Medicine and health care.

No wonder the current initial stage of the new UNESCO project ARTHUR on global Heritage sites might extend its concept of Heritage through a study of Sochi, the core health resort of Russia. Indeed, the large-scale development and popularity of resorts was a remarkable feature of the XX century in Russia.

Yet, in the 1990s this sphere was practically ignored by the market reforms. Neither the new Law on Resort Destinations, nor the hectic adjustments introduced by the examples hardly valid in other sectors of the national economy, were adequate to reconsider the spas' mission and operations in a new systems approach and to reroute health resorts' development into the appropriate health tourism industry. While the new concepts of health tourism and resort business are in the air, some local initiatives are growing into good practices, while the immediate priorities are being researched and addressed by education.

From Heritage of Spa and Health Tourism in Russia: Inna Petroun, and Elena Yachina

Resort destinations in Cyprus, Malta, Italy, Greece, Spain, Bulgaria, Tunisia, France, Thailand, that do not provide the quality of Russian treatment at spas, yet offer more affordable prices and luxury. Domestic tourism is in the crises in the 1990s, and the most notable decay is in the sphere of health resorts, though recreation at spas used to be the most popular purpose and motivation for travel till 1980 in Russia, and though there is the tremendous and still growing need for health tourism.

Interviews taken by experts of the TACIS EDRUS project in 1997 at a number of enterprises revieled, that people still tend to dream about recreation in the sun on the Black Sea, mountain skiing and hiking in Central Russia, relaxation on the Baikal lake, visiting cultural heritage sites around Moscow and St. Petrsburg. yet they both dream of and need the spa treatment and recreation in Southern resorts and in a number of other regions. Unfortunately, between the categories of "a need in" and "the demand for" health tourism there is a gap of economic indices, social policies, political priorities and conceptual approaches. Those are to be understood from the perspective of tourism and resort historical development in Russia.

Is Heritage a Threat to Resorts?

For 280 years Russia has been developing and advancing spa treatment. It was Peter the Great who constructed the first resort in Russia (in 1719 in the suburbs of Petrozavodsk in the Russian NW) and issued a Statement, according to which development of treatment facilities and spas became an item on the state list of priorities. Russian aristocracy supported the idea, and Russian resorts leveled and up-scaled the West European kurorten in style, mannerism and fashion.

In 1917 there were 36 resorts in Russia, with 60 spas providing treatment with natural water springs, baths and curative mud. Their total capacity was 3000 beds.

After the revolution the resorts fell under rule of Narkomzdrav (Committee for Health Care). According to data of 1928, about 242 000 people per year enjoyed treatment at resorts in Russia. In 1940 there were 3600 spas and rest homes in the Soviet Union - with the total capacity for 470 000 guests.

The Soviet government took it as a challenge to select and finance the most creative ideas for further developments of national resorts. In 1985 there were 14 000 spas in the Soviet Union, with the capacity of 2mln 250 beds.

Since 1960 they were run by Trade Unions, different ministries, solid organizations.

Before the 1990s health tourism was a half-social, and half-ideological program, with highly subsided resort facilities and travel, and the Constitution rights of all citizens to enjoy leisure and recreational opportunities. Three organizations had their share in tourism until 1989: the state-owned "Goskomintourist" for international tourism, the Komsomol - owned "Sputnik" for youth travel and the State Council for Travel and Excursions - for incentive tourism. Besides, Trade Unions and the Communist Party were active owners and distributors of incentive travel. The major decisions regarding construction, transportation, distribution of trips and strategic developments were taken by the Government through the above-mentioned three major organizations.

The indispensable role of spas in Russian health service has always been based on rehabilitation of people who had suffered

  • myocardial infarction,
  • cardio surgery,
  • reconstructive surgical operations on kidney and peripheral vessels,
  • acute condition of cerebral vessels,
  • neurosurgery on innocent tumor,
  • operations on ulcerative disease of the stomach or duodenum,
  • chronical pneumonia,
  • nonspecific deseases of lungs.

During the 1990s particular attention has been given to hydrobalneotherapy, due to which for quite a number of diseases and health problems there are well-established recommendations/prescriptions of spa types (climatic, or balneological, or local) and the desired season (depending upon specific manifestation and phase of the disease, form of the disease, etc.).

The main objectives of spa treatment are:

Preventive treatment:

  • impact on risk factors (excessive weight, etc.),
  • improvement of physical ability to work,
  • improvement of psychic state;

Treatment:

  • impact on pathogenetic links of the developing disease,
  • improvement of the patent's functional condition of organs and systems,
  • improvement of the clinical condition of the patient,
  • decrease of resistance to medicine taken for treatment, decrease of medical treatment;

Rehabilitation:

  • restoration of physical functions damaged by a disease,
  • liquidation of consequences of traumas and operations,
  • full or partial resoration of ability to work,
  • physical and psychic rehabilitation,
  • improvement of life quality.