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The EuropeSpa seal of quality for health resorts brings transparency to health tourism

Wiesbaden, November 2011| The EuropeSpa med seal of quality is the official seal of the European Spas Association (ESPA) for medical spas. By introducing uniform standards throughout Europe, it has brought transparency to the burgeoning health tourism sector. Enabling potential visitors to make an informed choice, it also helps health insurance companies and other funding organisations pick facilities for their patients. By the same token, providers of premium medical spas can use the rigorous, objective EuropeSpa seal of quality to distinguish themselves from the competition on the crowded market.

ESPA decided to launch the EuropeSpa quality drive in 2006. The market for spas and health resorts has grown rapidly ever since the opening-up of Eastern Europe and now enjoys annual turnover of about €20 billion. There are currently around 18,000 providers throughout Europe, about 6,000 of which can be considered international facilities. However, standards vary greatly and price isn’t always a reliable indicator of quality.

EuropeSpa is now well established on the market and is increasingly regarded as the foremost system of international certification for health resorts and spas.

Rigorous criteria
In order to be awarded the coveted EuropeSpa seal, applicants have to pass an audit consisting of about 400 questions covering around 1,000 criteria in areas such as management, safety and hygiene as well as cuisine and accommodation. Accordingly, certification addresses not only medical services but also the entire range of facilities available at a medical spa. When developing the criteria, very high standards were deliberately chosen. Although this meant that initially half the applicants did not pass straightaway, according to Dr Kurt von Storch (ESPA’s quality manager) this was the only way to establish a dependable seal of quality which was universally accepted. Moreover, with the market suffering from a glut of unsubstantiated quality badges used in advertising, "Only a hallmark with stringent, transparent standards can remain successful in the long-term," stressed Dr Storch.

Audits are carried out by appointment for EuropeSpa med and both by appointment and anonymously for EuropeSpa wellness, and take two or three days. Once a provider has attained the seal of quality, it is reviewed eighteen months later. Complete reassessment and recertification are required after three years in order to retain the EuropeSpa seal.

The hallmark valued by experts
EuropeSpa is accepted by German health insurance companies like Techniker Krankenkasse and BKK Gesundheit, demonstrating that it meets the requirements of medical experts. Moreover, in 2009 the jury of Financial Times Deutschland declared EuropeSpa med to be one of the top ten innovative ideas in the health sector. And its significance for the public was underscored by the verdict of Ökotest magazine, which in its 9/2010 issue described EuropeSpa as a "reliable seal of quality which sets uniform standards throughout Europe and is based on an extensive audit."

Good for business
Only very few providers manage to meet more than 90% of all EuropeSpa criteria. The record is currently held by Klinik am Haussee in the Feldberg Lake District in north-east Germany, which scored 97%. "The regular, comprehensive EuropeSpa med audit helps us permanently improve our quality," emphasises CEO Wolfgang Strohhäcker. "This seal is very helpful and more Germany companies ought to apply." Says Martin Plachy, proprietor of the Hotel Royal spa town in the Czech Republic: "The EuropeSpa certificate means that we can show our German clientele that we meet the criteria of the European Spas Association. This builds confidence, including among the German tour operators we work with.