Turkey, which leads the way in Europe and ranks seventh in the world in terms of thermal sites, could easily reach $15 billion in revenue from the sector thanks to "thermal cities," the secretary-general of Spa Thalasso and Health Resorts Association (TÜRKAP), Ilgaz Nacakoğlu, said Friday.
Nazcakoğlu told Anadolu Agency (AA) that Turkey, which has close to 1,100 thermal sources, 264 licensed spa facilities and around 500 thermal water facilities, is an ambitious country in terms of thermal riches in the world.
In order to benefit from the rapidly spreading spa tourism trend in the world, a greater number of facilities should be opened in Turkey in line with EU standards, Nacakoğlu said.
He also said that the facilities established in İzmir's Balçova district, Denizli's Karahayıt district, Kuşadası's Davutlar region, Yalova, Kütahya's Yoncalı district, Afyonkarahisar and Bolu welcome tourists from many countries looking for healing, adding that due to the decline in the European market, the facilities achieved success in the Russian, Middle Eastern and Indian markets.
"Thermal cities should be established instead of facilities in order to convert thermal water into foreign exchange," Nacakoğlu said, explaining that local governments as well as the investors are aware of thermal potential. Noting that those who have studied successful examples in the world have seen that this field provides employment and that warm waters bring tourism income, Nacakoğlu said great importance is now attached to the sector.
"Spa therapy is 14 days. It is only three to five days for tourists who spend their time in hotel facilities without getting bored. Therefore, a destination where tourists spend time in pleasure must be presented, such as cultural tours, gastronomic events and art activities," Nacakoğlu said, noting that the tourists can also pick tomatoes at farms and learn the art of marbling. "We have all these riches in abundance. Therefore, our thermal regions have to become thermal cities in order to be suitable for this type of tourism," he added.
Recalling that some regions around the world have recently managed to make spa tourism their main source of livelihood, Nacakoğlu said many cities in Turkey are candidates for this wealth with their clean air, green nature, distance from the city and thermal water.
Nacakoğlu said the distance covered by Afyonkarahisar and Pamukkale in this area is satisfactory, while there are ongoing projects in Bursa and İzmir. "Our government has recently supported this. I hope that with the issuance of the regulation in this regard, we will be in a better place in the next few years," Nacakoğlu said. "Our country, which has the largest number of thermal sources in Europe, can easily make $15 to 20 billion annually from spa tourism. For this, thermal cities need to be established instead of thermal facilities."
Hotels with thermal sites have recently collaborated with hospitals and medical centers hosting patients from different countries for different treatments and begun adding spa facilities into treatment packages, Nacakoğlu said.
Suggesting that a tourist coming for eye surgery, for example, could spend the recovery period at a thermal hotel after examinations or surgery, Nacakoğlu said increasing the number of these agreements can enable Turkey to use its power in health tourism more effectively.