Letter from the Managing Director No. 1

Sources of Culture

In January I joined the EHTTA network with great pleasure as Managing Director (Délégué Général) to work on the European dimension and the possible responses to programs and EU funding. Since then I have had the opportunity to meet some of you, but it has not yet been possible to tour throughout Europe. It therefore seemed useful before I’ll meet all of you to start this Newsletter in order to strengthen the links between all members, especially in between two general meetings.

One of the priorities for the EHTTA Network today is the answer to the last tender of the Culture Programme of the European Union, and the last General Assembly has given me the task of co-ordinating this. This response is particularly important, as the program in question will change in nature in two years under the frame of the new budget 2014-2021 and it is therefore the last call for proposals in the current form.

We have chosen the title “Sources of Culture – the cafés of Europe” The project goal is to recreate the spirit of creative and intellectual discussion and collaboration, which was found in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the European spa towns and involve the sense of creativity visitors and citizens of spas by conducting a series of events called “Cafés of Europe”. These collaborations will also allow creation of new artistic works using new technologies and new media in helping to raise awareness of the current buzz of the cities in terms of festivals and exhibitions. They will also give you new ways to present and interpret the history and culture of cities to their citizens and their visitors through a virtual interactive novel presen,ting the travels of four personalities of past and present. This is to celebrate European culture as a source of ideas and concepts that have been disseminated worldwide and continues today to promote intercultural dialogue with other continents.

In the next week you will receive a letter from President Christian Corne outlining the entire project and each of the measures. We tried to meet the needs of all cities of the network, while providing for some of them, events on a larger scale. We would be grateful if you would respond quickly. Catherine Lloyd is handling the administrative part of the bid – she will bring together the elements and write it – and is also responsible for answering all your practical questions. Marion Vansingle is working closely with the President of EHTTA Network and with the Route of Spa Towns of the Massif Central. The Route of Massif Central will be the project coordinator. She will develop a draft budget that is perfectly balanced between members and between actions. She is also responsible for involving the towns of the Massif Central and had been very successful in this.

Both have supported me constantly in the “brainstorming” which, from all the ideas that were presented at the Annual General Meeting, will achieve a realistic, effective, visible and responsive EHTTA network. We also aim to create the most efficient possible in terms of spending for cities and participating cultural partners, because we recognize that the economic crisis affects everyone.


I had the opportunity in February and June, to go in the Massif Central to meet all city officials of the Route of the Villes d’Eaux which are closely involved as associates of EHTTA – Royat-Chamalières, Châtel-Guyon, La Bourboule, Le Mont-Dore and Vichy.

In each city I got to meet and discuss with the elected officials, spa managers and tourist officers and of course visit the spa facilities and heritage. Meetings with guides – actors who bring a special touch for visitors they accompany – have been quite exciting. It was also an opportunity to contact officials with Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne region (European Affairs and Tourism) and the Director of DATAR for the Massif Central (Territory Planning), a very important development public agency in France and with which the Route of Spa Towns in the Massif Central has signed an agreement. It was finally an opportunity to work directly with the team led by Jean-Francois Béraud, which includes all team skills, ranging from analyzing Heritage to web-mastering, from design to marketing. You already know Eric Brut, who, meanwhile, on top of his other responsibilities working with Pierre Jal and Marion Vansingle, became the mayor of La Bourboule. It is mainly with Marion that I work with – almost daily- and with whom I’ve had dozens of virtual meetings by skype, as well as team meetings, especially for the preparation of European programs.

I was received twice at Spa, once before the General Assembly in March and then in late April. I had this opportunity, thanks to the careful preparation of Charles Gardier, “Echevin” for Culture and Tourism and Isabelle Grégoire, Director of the Office of Tourism, met several times with the Council chaired by Joseph Houssa, the Mayor. The visits focused on ancient and modern baths, museum, urban planning, in a city where there are numerous restorations in the main buildings, casino and theaters. The city was already booming in April for the transfer of the tourist office in the restored pouhon (Pump Room) of Peter the Great, the opening of which took place on June 21.

As part of the preparation of the Culture program, I also returned to Bath in late June to meet more fully the Directorate of cultural action and further analyze the strategy of the city on the cultural and tourism areas. Also in Enghien-les-Bains where Miche Playe, Deputy Mayor has mobilized both the team of the Office of Tourism, and officials of the Barrière Group which manages baths, spa, hotels and casinos, as well as officials of the Centre d’Art, specializing in digital arts.

A visit also took place in Baden-Baden on May 29 with President Corne at meetings to prepare for the inscription on the World Heritage List. This allowed me to better assess the issues, but also complementarities and differences with the program of the Council of Europe. It was of course also discussed the European programs that the city could participate through its marketing agency. It was Lisa Poetschki who organized and coordinated all the long and detailed appointments with Mayor Wolfgang Gerstner.

I want to thank everyone who took their time and energy to arrange these visits, which are not only demonstrative, but useful for me to better appreciate what are the needs, desires, strategy of cities that could take part sooner or later in other European tenders. I will ensure that future issues of this letter will be sent every two weeks, looking in more detail at each visit.

Focus on Italy

For a number of formal occasions, I wanted to emphasize Italy in this newsletter, because I had the opportunity to go there three times in February, May and June. On February 25 the National Association of Italian spas (Ancot) organized a meeting in Montecatini Terme with Italian Secretary of State for Health and with professional organizations and spa establishments, as well as various researchers. It aimed to examine the
consequences of the future European Directive “Health without Borders” which will take effect in October 2013 and to define a strategy to restore the spas visibility and attendance they deserve. It gave me the opportunity to talk on behalf of President Corne to represent the network. I also sent a message to the meeting of the spa towns of Sicily in March.

In May I was invited to Florence (18-20 May) as part of the exhibition “Art and Tourism” and the Tuscany Region Euromeeting which is organized each year to review progress on sustainable tourism in Europe. I was able to speak for fifteen minutes about the network and
have developed this opportunity for a highly illustrated powerpoint presentation that could be used on other occasions and has been translated into English and French with a comment accompaniment. It will be downloadable from the EHTTA Extranet. President Corne was
present, as well as elected officials and the Baths of Acquiterme, Bagni di Lucca, Montecatini Terme and Fiuggi with which I discussed in a specific meeting about the actions planned for the Culture Programme.

In Pavia 6-10 June there was the first meeting between cultural routes “Crossroads of Europe” organized by the European Commission with the co-operation of the Council of Europe. Mayor of Montecatini Terme, Giuseppe Bellandi made a presentation about the EHTTA Network and spoke in the context of a roundtable with several other cultural Routes of the Council of Europe. This very important event for all those involved, and was a good opportunity for lobbying and visibility as EHTTA was present in the lounge of the event with a specific panel (as well as one in the exhibition prepared by the Council of Europe) and for the first time had a brochure about all the EHTTA members. Raffaella Caria has coordinated this operation as any other meeting in Italy very efficiently. A second meeting with representatives of the Italian cities went further in exploring their possible participation in the Culture Programme and to consider the Network’s participation at Expo 2015 in Milan, whose general theme is water.


Apart from this Newsletter link which I hope the publication as regular as possible and joint projects that will develop by increasing opportunities for meetings and cooperation, EHTTA network has in addition to its website, new information sites. Following the decision of the General Assembly, Catherine Lloyd opened a facebook page entitled “Thermal Travels” ( A number of you – almost one hundred have liked the page – please visit it regularly and post or share information and ask your friend to join.

I also opened a curating site (In English, French, Spanish, Italian and German depending of the sources) that allows me to gather information about water in general and environmental issues, the events of the European institutions which would affect the network, hydrotherapy in its aspects historical and contemporary and all events taking place in cities across the network, as well as commercial offers of baths and newspaper articles that appear on these topics ( web at:

Since April 10, on the 180 posts that have been entered, more than 1,000 pages were visited and have generated 250 responses from which a forward or rescoop by visitors on their own sites. All information is posted on my twitter and often my Facebook page. Some information is included on Thermal Travels.

For the next meeting I will prepare a strategy report for the coherence of information for the entire Network EHTTA because many other inexpensive and efficient visibility actions for the Network could be undertaken.

While waiting for decisions in this field, make the effort to forward Raffaella Caria and Marion Vansingle info concerning tourism and cultural spa activities of your cities. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the calendar of festivals in the EHTTA network that we
are putting together.

The Extranet (collaborative platform) is now functional. We are testing it, and uploading all written and photographic information which is essential to the EHTTA Network. You will have access from September.
Thank you again for your attention and quick response to Chairman Corne’s letter about the Culture Programme.

I wish you a pleasant an surely very active holiday,

Michel Thomas-Penette
Managing Director

Click here to view Letter from the Managing Director No. 1

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