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EuropeSpa: the international seal of quality for health resorts and spas

The ‘diploma’ for health resorts and spas: "Tough to get but great for business!"

Wiesbaden, November 2011 | The EuropeSpa seal of quality of the European Spas Association (ESPA) is awarded to top-quality spas and health resorts throughout Europe. Since ESPA’s auditors raise the same questions regardless of where candidates are located, EuropeSpa brings transparency to a burgeoning market for health resorts and spas. Travel agencies benefit in particular, as it means the calibre of providers from Portugal to Finland and from Iceland to Turkey can now be compared. And potential visitors can make an informed choice based on reliable information. Moreover, EuropeSpa provides guidance to health insurance companies as to which rehabilitation clinics meet the exacting standards of the European Spas Association. 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 initiative in 2006. The market for spas and health resorts had expanded rapidly ever since the opening-up of Eastern Europe, reaching annual turnover of about €20 billion. It had more than 4,000 providers and an estimated 500,000 employees. However, with standards varying greatly, price wasn’t always a reliable indicator of quality, and there was no system of international comparison. 

Nowadays EuropeSpa is established in 12 countries and is developing into the foremost system of international certification for health resorts and spas. Certified EuropeSpa operators benefit from an extensive range of marketing services from ESPA’s international network. And they are also showcased on the international quality portal 

Two seals that create instant confidence
The EuropeSpa seal comes in two types. EuropeSpa wellness with the green quality logo is aimed at spa hotels. In addition to having outstanding spa facilities, they also have to meet very high standards in areas such as management, hygiene and service as well as accommodation and cuisine. The blue EuropeSpa seal is awarded to spa clinics and hotels in health resorts. As its name suggests, it goes one step further by requiring medical excellence.

Having the EuropeSpa on the door as well as in brochures and advertising indicates that providers of health resorts and spa services meet ESPA’s high standards. And it also gives a fillip to their commercial success on the lucrative cross-border European market.

Rigorous criteria 
Auditing is based on exhaustive lists of around 1,000 or 1,300 criteria covering safety, hygiene and infrastructure as well as cuisine, hotels and service. When developing the criteria, very high standards were deliberately chosen. Although this meant that initially half the applicants did not pass straightaway, according to ESPA’s Secretary-General Joachim Lieber, this was the only way to establish and maintain EuropeSpa as a trusted seal of quality. Moreover, with the market suffering from a glut of quality badges used in advertising without a solid basis of quality, only a seal with very high, transparent standards could be credibly established.

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 seal that’s 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, the jury of Financial Times Deutschland chose the EuropeSpa med concept as one of the winners of the 2009 Health Sector Ideas Park competition. The value of the seal for consumers is underscored by the verdict of Ökotest magazine, which rated EuropeSpa as a reliable seal of quality in its 9/2010 issue “which sets universal standards throughout Europe and is based on an extensive audit.”