Developing wellness and health tourism in the Bay of Riga area

The topic of blue growth – the smart development of marine and coastal areas – is being increasingly discussed by experts from various fields such as tourism in Latvia. However, the discussion is not on the perspectives of ordinary tourism, but rather on wellness and health tourism, which give added value to the development of the coastal area. We had a chat with Gunta Ušpele, manager of the Latvian Health tourism cluster with solid work experience in the municipality of Jūrmala, the largest resort city in the Baltic Sea Region, regarding the potential for health tourism in the Bay of Riga area.

What is your perspective on the potential for health tourism in the coastal areas of the Riga Planning Region?

There is definitely great potential and a lot of opportunities in, for example, the use of natural recreational resources in healthcare by making ecological cosmetics and other products beneficial to human health. Jūrmala is a good place for climatotherapy and thalassotherapy centres, intended not only for people with severe health issues, but also for prophylactic purposes, for strengthening the immune system, and for recreation – the Baltic Sea and Bay of Riga are perfectly suitable for this. Psammo therapy (sand bathing) is not actually available here, even though it is possible. In addition, there are too few beaches and they lack the infrastructure for people with disabilities. Not much is needed to set up a thalassotherapy centre: floats and entertainment with inflatable devices, so people can swim, sunbathe and exercise in the seawater. Nowadays, there are many innovative temporary installations, perfectly suitable for coastal areas, so there is no need for permanent structures.

Which services could have the greatest potential? Can you name any positive examples?

These are definitely healthcare services, including both medicine and wellness aspects. These services can include the use of seawater or marine/pine forest air for climatotherapy. Moreover, the use of mineral waters and mud is in high demand – there is potential for new rehabilitation centres. The Baltic Sea area with its great number of protected areas is very suitable for thalassotherapy, and there is room for the development of centres where medical and wellness services, for example, yoga, qigong classes at the seaside, as well as eco-cosmetics and food, are available.

Are entrepreneurs aware of this potential?

Definitely, especially during the summer season. But there are still many opportunities to develop new concepts for the low season, too. The challenge is to make the entrepreneurs understand that they themselves have to create long-term business plans with a plan for future actions and not just come to Jūrmala for a quick profit. The real estate business unfortunately operates that way in the coastal areas. Building and selling a house or a flat quickly is easier than providing health services in coastal areas. On the other hand, health services offer higher added value in the long run. In total, the coast of Latvia is a 498 kilometre-long well-protected coastal area with amazing pine forests and sand dunes. Overall, it is a great and relatively undisturbed zone for climatotherapy.

What is your recommendation to those who really want to develop health tourism in coastal areas?

Be daring – the faster you jump onto this train and gain experience, the greater will be the value for your company. You will have an opportunity to be a leader, unlike those who follow you. This, actually, is a great advantage for blue growth in the coastal areas of Latvia.

 

Click here for further information:
Latvian Health Tourism Cluster