The flourishing thermal bath business of Budapest
According to hvg.hu, the famous thermal baths of Budapest went through quite a few changes in the past years: they became trendy touristic destinations from being the soak-barrel of the elderly. The Hungarian bath culture is flourishing, it’s a real success story.
Based on a survey conducted last year, the historic baths of Budapest – Gellért, Lukács, Rudas and Széchenyi – are mostly visited by British, French and American guests, who are followed by German, Italian, Russian, Spanish and Swedish tourists. The baths are also visited by people from Andorra, Iceland, Greenland, Dubai, Bolivia, Mongolia and Senegal. 90% of those visiting Széchenyi and Gellért with full price tickets are foreigners. During the week of the survey conducted by Budapest Spas cPlc., the visitors came from more than 90 countries. Based on this information, they believe that at least 60% of tourists coming to Budapest visit one of the thermal baths.
The operation of spas and beaches in Budapest has grown into a true success story in the past years. The Budapest Spas cPlc. finished the year of 2010 with a loss worth 700 million forints (~EUR 2m), while they had a profit of 11.5 billion (~EUR 37m) last year. The 8 baths and 4 beaches operated by the company welcomed four million guests in 2016, meaning that the number of visitors grew by one million in six years. What’s more, our baths became the trendy destinations of tourists from being the soak-barrels of the elderly. The investments were partly financed from credit, but mostly from the profit of the company, thus becoming the most prosperous enterprise in the capital city.
What makes Budapest unique among the big cities of Europe is that it is one of the few cities where historic baths are still functioning. Roman baths can be found in several cities, but they mostly function as museums. However, the precious heritage is not enough, the bathing facilities of Budapest are constantly being renewed based on the feedback of bathers. For instance, this is why couple’s massages with essential oils were introduced in three historic baths.
According to a 2011 survey, the thermal baths of Budapest mainly attracted people in their 50s-60s, but now, half of the guests are young adults. This is probably due to the popular cultural and entertainment programmes held in the spas from time to time.
The company believes that the big change came with the development programme launched in 2010. One of the short-term goals was to have outdoor pools in all baths. This goal was achieved with the newest pool of Rudas inaugurated two years ago. In the frameworks of an investment worth 1 billion forints (~EUR 3m), the spas were equipped with sauna worlds, new pools, boilers, dressing rooms and shower blocks in 2014. The construction of Dandár’s outdoor pool was finished in the same year. Furthermore, the company plans on expanding the all year around opening hours to all baths in the upcoming years.
The newest plan concerns the reconstruction of the Csillaghegyi Bath and Swimming Pool, which is expected to be finished next year. The bath complex will have seven terraces built on top of each other, and the panorama pool on the top will look as if it was hanging in the air. Further plans concern the renovation of the Pesterzsébet and Király Baths. The former one is quite important, because its thermal spring is different from the others in the city. While the others are mostly good for curing musculoskeletal disorders, the one in South Pest can also ease the symptoms of gynaecological and dermatological diseases.
Even though the selection is quite wide in Budapest, the prices can also get quite high. Especially in the Széchenyi and Gellért Baths with a ticket price of 4.900 (~EUR 16) and 5.100 forints (~EUR 17) at the weekend.
Besides the successes of last year, the company also had a few losses: they had to say goodbye to Dagály due to the FINA World Aquatics Championships, which could only be reopened next summer. However, they have a plan B: the company plans on launching new products such as mineral water from Csillaghegy, cosmetics with thermal water and a separate educational base.