EHTTA General Assembly

EHTTA’s first General Assembly 2020 took place

EHTTA Held its first ever Online General Assembly on the 23rd and 24th June, with Members joining a Zoom Conference over four sessions.  The morning session of the General Assembly was a networking and welcoming session, followed in the afternoon with the Association busines, including several activity reports, financial matters, and plans for future events.

In his opening speech, Mr Baltar welcomed the “new normality” and  talked about the gradual opening of thermal facilities and tourism in our member towns – the network of the towns of health in Europe.  He said, “It is time to face this situation with renewed energy, new ideas, and new efforts to valorise the environment that has been at the service of health for  Europeans and  to visitors for hundreds of years.”  Mr Baltar reminded members that it is a year since he and the Vice Presidents took up their positions, and he paid tribute to former President, Mr Bellandi, saying “The Association would not have got where it is without the untiring work of the ex-President and good friend Mr Bellandi”.  Mr Baltar sent warm greetings to him, and thanked former members of the Task Force for their hard work.  He went on to thank the Scientific Committee and the EHTTA Co-ordinator, and looking forward to when Simone Zagrodnik takes up her post as Executive Director he said that she will help to bring new opportunities and to move the Association to international recognition.  Mr Baltar finished by talking about the work that is taking place with some of the most important organisations in our sector in Europe, and said he was pleased to say we’ve been well received.

The Association welcomed Mondorf-les-Bains in Luxembourg and Castrocaro Terme e Terra del Sole in Italy as new members, and heard short presentations from representatives of the towns, as well as seeing some videos of these new members of our Cultural Route of the Council of Europe.  EHTTA President, Mr Baltar, also welcomed Simone Zagrodnik as the new EHTTA Executive Director who will take up her new post at the start of August.  Members heard about Simone’s vision for the future of EHTTA and her priorities and learned about the “EHTTA House“.  Members of the Association then had the opportunity to update each other on how tourism is moving once again in each town, and how the recovery is starting in the network.

In the second session of the General Assembly, members voted to accept the 2019 Annual and Financial Reports, and to accept the Emergency Budget for the remainder of 2020.  Mario Crecente talked about plans for European Thermal Heritage Day on 16th October and Simone Zagrodnik talked about the Technical meeting planned for the 17th October – both in Baden-Baden.  Members also heard about the development of EHTTA’s first international event in Saratoga Springs in October 2021, and received an update from the Scientific Committee on potential new members.   Anne Kaiser presented the Communications Report, showing how EHTTA’s online activity and social media has grown since the start of the pandemic.  Anne was thanked by Mr Baltar for her work, as she will leave EHTTA for a new role at the end of June.  The members also saw the results of the Impact Survey carried out in April and May, and learned about a new Manual and Sharefile System, which will soon become useful  tools for members.

Day two of the General Assembly was more like a training session and webinar.  We were honoured to be joined by  Mr Stefano Dominioni , Executive Secretary of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes – Directorate of Democratic Participation (DGII) Council of Europe; and Director of the European Institute of Cultural Routes and Carolina Clark, Project Manager of the European Institute of Cultural Routes.  After a fascinating session on the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, there were several presentations from different routes (The European Route of Industrial Heritage, the Via Francigena, the HANSA, and the European Cemeteries Route) of  which have all developed great projects, hailed as best practice in the five priority fields of action of the Cultural Routes Programme.  Carolina Clark also talked about youth initiatives around the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe.

All the presentations are available for members to download from the new Sharefile system.

In the afternoon, Members heard updates  from key partners (The Great Spas of Europe, The Route des Villes d’Eaux du Massif Central, The European Heritage Alliance 3.3. and the European Tourism Association).

Members are able to download presentations, papers and videos from the meetings from the Sharefile system, and are also asked to give feedback on the General Assembly, through this link. https://forms.gle/bGZg3tW4RTJtKxgG8


New members

EHTTA welcomed its new members Castrocaro Terme e Terra del Sole and Mondorf-les-Bains

EHTTA welcomed two new members at the Online General Assembly, bringing the total number of countries in the network to 18, with the addition of Mondorf-les-Bains in Luxembourg, alongside new Italian Member, Castrocaro Terme e Terra del Sole.

Castrocaro Terme e Terra del Sole, located in the heart of the Romagna Region, around 100km from Florence, is well-known for its baths and healing water.  The town experienced major growth in the Middle Ages, thanks to the thermal waters, and the patronage of the Medici family.  Today visitors, who enjoy the walking and cycling in the area as well as the spa, can also wonder around an almost intact Renaissance urban settlement, and a spectacular fortress perching on the rocks above the town.  Castrocaro Terme is also known for its beautiful art deco buildings – some of the best examples of this architecture in Italy.

Thermalism has been at the heart of Mondorf-les-Bains since 1847, when the thermal springs were discovered by drillers looking for salt.  Since then it has been an initially small farming village became prosperous and internationally famous.

Mondorf is located in the South of Luxembourg, next to the French and German border and near the wine area along the river called Moselle, or Musel in Luxembourgish.  Mondorf has only 5300 inhabitants, but every year about 1 million visitors come for a trip mainly to the thermal centre, with its health section and wellness area or to the casino.  Sport and cultural events are offered all year round, and EHTTA members will be given a warm welcome if they wish to visit.

Luxembourg is the newest country in the  EHTTA family, taking our total to 18 – and it’s particularly special, as Luxembourg is where the European Institute for Cultural Routes is based.


COVID-19 survey

EHTTA’s COVID-19 impact survey

As the Europe-wide lockdown stopped thermal towns throughout our network, we wanted to find out what was happening in each town, and what, if anything could be done to help.  A survey was sent to all the Members, and over a period of 6 weeks, from 17th April, we received 26 replies, representing 41% of the membership, and all of the towns in the Great Spas of Europe.

There were several insights from the results, some of which may need to be studied further, and these can be found in detail on the new sharing platform.

The survey highlighted a general lack of awareness of EHTTA’s online social media activities, and showed that very few of the respondents are engaging in sharing this content, and less than 2/3 had made colleagues aware of EHTTA’s social media accounts, even though respondents also wanted to see more online activity, lobbying and sharing of best practice.

The vast majority (83%) had to discontinue some projects temporarily.  Loss of private and public funding was an issue for 30-40% of respondents, while approx 60% were looking for new funding and/or applying for emergency government funded where it was offered.

Many described springs and taps as being open but bathing establishments were on the whole closed. Montecatini Terme and Daruvar reported some limited facilities being open.

Jobs, festivals and events, and income (eg from ticket sales) are perceived to be at the most risk – thermal and other built heritage seem to be at the least risk

19 respondents gave  a free text answer about how thermal towns can lead the recovery from COVID-19.  84% of these mentioned health in their answer.

In terms of the important markets before the crisis – 60% said within our own country was “most important” and 50%  said the local region was “moderately important”.  Europe had some level of importance for everyone, other world markets less so.      The responses to where the most important markets are likely to be after the pandemic show the importance of “proximity tourism” – within our own country, the local region and Europe being most important.  NB not all respondents answered all of this question.

Hotels, Events, Festivals and Gastronomy are the worst affected parts of the spa town ecosystem now. Sporting events seem most likely to lead the recovery.  Both Built Heritage & Museums and Thermal Water facilities (medical and leisure) seemed to score equal to each other in both parts of the question.


EHTTA Council Meeting

EHTTA’s Executive Council met virtually

The Executive Council held its first online meeting on 18th  May, with members joining via Zoom from all corners of the network.  The meeting focussed heavily on the impact of the pandemic on EHTTA finances, and what that would mean for the Association’s budget.  A new reduced “emergency”  budget was discussed to take the Association through the rest of the year while planning for reduced income as well as reduced expenditure.  The Council also heard reports from Communications, the Scientific Committee and the EHTTA Co-ordinator, and discussed future events, particularly the European Thermal Heritage Day on 16th October in Baden-Baden, and Saratoga Springs in 2021.


Budapest is sending a message to the world’s major cities

Budapest is sending a message to the world’s major cities via the illuminated windows of empty hotels

The Municipality of Budapest and the Hungarian Hotel and Restaurant Association are launching a joint campaign. After dark, the windows of Budapest’s empty hotels display the message “4U!”. The For You! message is displayed using the lighting in certain hotel rooms. Through this small but easily understood gesture, Budapest wishes to stand in solidarity with other cities that are similarly affected by the crisis caused by the coronavirus. The fact is that the tourism and catering industry shutdown, curfew restrictions and all-pervading uncertainty are equally taking their toll on every large city, company, citizen and those in charge of operating cities under these extraordinary circumstances. The 4U! message is for them, too.

The people who initiated the campaign would like to call attention to the fact that cities and city dwellers will only be able to overcome this crisis together, by looking out for each other and acting in a tolerant and empathetic way. Light, and the attention people give each other, are giving hope to a lot of people and help them persevere in this tough period.

The people behind the #Light4Eachother, #Light4U international campaign expect other cities to take on the message so that this kind gesture’s call for sympathy can be disseminated through social media.

From the last weekend of March, the 4U! message appeared in Budapest’s windows after dark, at 7:30 p.m. So far, the following hotels in Budapest have joined the illuminated message campaign:

  • Budapest Marriott Hotel
  • Intercontinental Budapest
  • Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge
  • Hilton Budapest
  • Kempinski Hotel Corvinus
  • Ritz Carlton Budapest
  • Hotel Moments Budapest
  • Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace
  • Hotel Clark Budapest
  • Mercure Budapest Korona
  • Corinthia Hotel Budapest
  • Danubius Hotel Budapest (Körszálló)

The Municipality of Budapest and the Hungarian Hotel and Restaurant Association are still looking for new-joiners. The initiators would like to ask participants and those wishing to express their solidarity this way to post their own pictures of the hotels or the pictures that are attached on social media with the following hashtags: #Light4Eachother, #Light4U.

Photo credit: Tamás Lénárd


EHTTA’s future Executive Director

EHTTA has appointed the future full time Executive Director, Mrs Simone Zagrodnik.

The European Historic Thermal Towns Association is pleased to announce the appointment of a new Executive Director beginning in August 2020, Mrs Simone Zagrodnik.

Simone has been attending EHTTA events since 2011 as the Head of Marketing for Wiesbaden Congress and Marketing, where she has worked for the last fifteen years. She is well-known to EHTTA members and its partners, having been involved in the life of the Association and represented EHTTA at international tourism fairs such as ITB and WTM, and represented the Association at conferences such as HTI.

We are delighted to welcome her as EHTTA’s Executive Director and wish her every success in the future, in this important role, which she will start on 1st August 2020.


Regional training exercise for the Cultural Routes in Azerbaijan

Regional training exercise for the Cultural Routes in Azerbaijan
The Ministry of Culture in Azerbaijan (EHTTA Associate Member), and the European Institute of Cultural Routes in Luxembourg invited us to take part in a Regional training exercise for the Cultural Routes in Azerbaijan, on 28th and 29th February in the capital Baku.
The EHTTA Co-ordinator, Catherine Lloyd was asked to moderate a panel of speakers from the different routes involved in the training, the Route of Olives, Iter Vitis, The Rock Art Trail and the Route of Historic Thermal Towns. Interestingly the panellists were all private sector partners, who are often the ones at the forefront of the production of the olives, wine etc which are celebrated as part of the Cultural Heritage of the Routes.
Catherine also assisted Carolina Clark, the Project Manager of the European Institute of Cultural Routes to deliver some training about how to “be” a Cultural Route of the Council of Europe, using several of EHTTA’s projects and initiatives as examples of good practice.
The hospitality shown by Gunel Aslanova, representative of the Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan was second to none!

EHTTA Council

Executive Council in Paris, 22nd of January

Executive Council in Paris, 22nd of January The EHTTA Council met in Paris on 22nd January 2020 at the French Ministry of Culture, the first one of 2020 and the first one with EHTTA’s new President and Vice Presidents. Representatives from the Ministry gave some presentations about the French Cultural Routes programme, and heard about EHTTA and some of its initiatives and plans for the future.
The main discussions centred around the new EHTTA Structure, and the job description and interview process for the new Executive Director. It is expected that the new Executive Director will be in post by the 1st August, and a full announcement about the outcome of those interviews will be made to EHTTA members as soon as it’s possible to do so.
Much of what was discussed at the meeting – communications, exhibitions, future plans and meetings has had to be put on hold until the end of the Coronavirus. Future meetings will probably have to be held online – we are all working out how to keep EHTTA operational and promoting its members through these difficult times!


Thermalism and Human Rights – the conection is EHTTA!

Thermalism and Human Rights – the conection is EHTTA! New EHTTA President José Manuel Baltar Blanco has released a video to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Founding of EHTTA, the European Historic Thermal Towns Association, at date which falls on Human Rights Day and the 70th Anniversary of the singing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. EHTTA is a network which now represents over 50 members in 17 countries, having grown from the six original founding members, which include the Spanish thermal town of Ourense in Galicia, Spain, where Mr Baltar is the President of the Deputación Ourense. Speaking in front of the piping hot As Burgas fountain in Ourense, Mr Baltar said “Human Rights Day is particularly relevant to us because the thermal spa towns of Europe were the “Cafés of Europe”, places where all levels of society could mix, exchange ideas and even sow the seeds of social change. The “rules” of our spa towns ensured civilised conduct, and over the centuries they have played a leading role in fostering peace, co-operation and creativity, protecting the built and natural environment, and promoting sustainable cultural development.” Having worked together and grown for the last ten years, EHTTA is now ready to embrace the future, and to continue to work to promote the concept and values of thermalism throughout Europe and at the highest levels. Mr Baltar said, “ I believe that thermalism is a true European value and is at the heart of our continued well-being as a continent. The way our towns developed around our unique, almost magical health-giving thermal springs; the way they developed infrastructure – beautiful and functional buildings designed to care for people as well as to entertain them; and the way the towns drew people from far and wide across all levels of society to meet, inspire each other and to create new forms of society – this is thermalism. We will continue to give voice to thermalism, which is the voice of tradition and well-being, as well as the voice of future generations. It’s a thermalism that is a true European value, and which we will continue to protect as a human right.”


Link to the video


Manneken-Pis, the Emblem of Belgium in his new Bathrobe

The most famous little man in Brussels, the Belgian capital, joined the growing community of “Bathrobe Addicts©” in time for the EHTTA 10th Anniversary celebrations! Created in the spa towns of the Massif Central (France), the Bathrobe Addicts© community now has a base in Belgium where the campaign is being developed in partnership with the Tourist Office of Spa and the Association of the Route des Villes d’eaux du Massif Central. EHTTA’s 50 spa towns represented by their delegates and elected representatives were in Brussels on the 9th October in order to celebrate European thermal culture and the thermal way of life. A complete outfit comprising minature bathrobe, slippers and bag, branded with the Bathrobe Addicts© logo was presented to members of the Order of the Mannekin-Pis at the Town Hall in the Grand Place. After the ceremony, EHTTA Members, all dressed in the iconic white bathrobes, joined a marching band to parade to the site of the famous statue where his new outfit was unveiled and his special song was sung by everyone! The bathrobe, which is a simple but effective emblem for all spa towns which are the epitome ofwellness and thermal experiences, is now the 1302nd costume in the Manneken-Pis costume museum in Brussels! Find out more about the brand:https://www.lesaccrosdupeignoir.com/