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SPA Resorts Are Booming in Asia, Yet Are Very Hard
to Find on the Map of Europe

by Berno-H. Feuring, October 2009

A top holiday in a first-class, internationally renowned SPA-resort with a unique high-quality standard in terms of facilities and services:  This is the least most people expect when they book a flight to Asia. 

How can it be that Europe, as the most popular holiday region in the world, is so under-developed when it comes to catering to the needs of people with such expectations?

Europe, is not in a position to cater for this significant part of first-class holiday travel because there are not enough SPA-resorts to choose from.   This means, there are not enough hotels offering services that underline the qualities of their natural location and make them attractive all year long.  They do not offer a wide enough range of additional services such as wellness or other interesting outdoor activities like golf, cultural events nor enough modern conference- and shopping facilities. 

Hotels, which only offer their guests a place to spend the night or have a meal, no longer come up to the expectations of guests as we know them today and especially not of those in the upmarket hotel sector.  However, resorts in Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean are well equipped to meet these requirements.  International hotel chains like Hyatt, Four Seasons, Shangri-La or Hilton, for example, operate some very successful resorts there and know exactly what travellers want.  Why is the development of this sector in Europe, despite the potential there no doubt is, so very much behind the development in these regions?  The explanation is the lack of confidence and trust on behalf of the financing institutes:  On the one hand, bad examples like Heiligendamm, the oldest seaside spa in Germany, justify their lack of trust in such resorts.  On the other hand, their mistrust is not justified because it is based on a lack of know-how and experience.

Sceptical investors

In Europe, it is very difficult to obtain the financial backing for a resort hotel.  Investors tend to have a preference for saturated markets with a certain track-record and put their stakes on the predatory competition factor.  Holiday resorts are considered to bear a much higher – unknown – risk than the better-known city hotels.  One of the main reasons for this is the high seasonality in occupancy of some resorts which results in the fact that during summer, ski-resorts, for example, shut down completely for a certain amount of weeks whilst beach resorts in the Mediterranean do not have a lot of bookings during winter.  Why, however, are some of these resorts downright cash cows and why can they achieve very good all-year occupancy rates at above-average prices, although at first glance conditions do not seem to be in their favour?  The answer is that it is very important to offer the right concept in order to meet prevailing demand.

The course for a successful hotel is set during the development of the project

The most popular travel destination in the world still has enormous development potential.  Each year, the Mediterranean region attracts around 320 million visitors and generates approximately one third of the money spent on travel worldwide.  The WTO (World Tourism Organization) predicts that by 2025 demand will be twice as high.  In contrast to this there are only around 20 European luxury resorts that are linked to an international chain.  One of these is the Four Seasons Terre Blanche Provence.  Until now, the operators of international resorts in the luxury segment like Mandarin Oriental, Shangri-La or Oberoi are not to be found in the European Mediterranean region.

This immense unused potential is a result of the fact that European investors do not have enough confidence in the success of resorts.  However, provided that crucial factors such as the right concept and branding and an effective project development are born in mind, the European holiday market has a lot of potential for some very attractive investments.  This should be made use of.
Very often, it will be the way a project development is carried out that will make the little difference:  Mistakes that are made in the course of the development of a hotel can hardly ever be made up for during operations.

The success of a resort hotel therefore primarily depends on the right project development.  Provided the right standards are set at this stage, nothing will stand in the way of a resort’s – and hence the investor’s - economic success.  This is also true of Europe, today as much as tomorrow.


FEURING – Visionary Hotel Development
An der Karlsschanze 8
D-55131 Mainz 
Tel       +49 - 6131 - 98 222 98
Fax      +49 - 6131 - 98 222 2

Also See: The 208 room Radisson SAS Birdland Resort & Spa in Bad Bük, Hungary Opens / April 2004
Starwood Sales the 219-room Turnberry Resort, Ayrshire, Scotland, to Leisurecorp, the Dubai World company, for approximately USD$100 million / November 2008

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