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Call for insurers to recognise hot springs bathing as complementary therapy
Newly published health and biomedical sciences research suggests hot springs bathing warrants consideration from Australian health practitioners and insurers as a complementary therapy similar to yoga and massage.
The research, conducted by researchers at RMIT University and published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, involved an online survey that attracted 4,265 responses from bathers at Australia’s largest commercial hot springs, Peninsula Hot Springs on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
In an industry which has mostly marketed to those seeking relaxation and escape over the past several decades, the findings confirm the spring owners’ belief that Australian bathers are achieving significant health benefits for a wide range of medical conditions from hot springs bathing.
While analysis revealed that ‘relaxation’, ‘peace and tranquility’, ‘indulgence’ and ‘escape’ were the most important motivators for hot springs bathing, significant benefits were reported from those who said they suffered from back pain, arthritis, stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia.
Peninsula Hot Springs General Manager and founder of the Golden Door, Brook Ramage quickly identified a new therapeutic path for the springs, after learning that 14% of the facility’s regular bathers suffered from back pain.
Ramage explained “the research provides us with evidence to support what we have been seeing for many years.
“These findings provide further credibility to our health and wellness initiatives which include warm water exercise programs and a DVD produced by our Brand Ambassador and former Olympian Steph Prem, specifically catering for those seeking back pain relief.
“It’s a significant evolution in our business offering, which started nearly 12 years ago mostly pitched at those seeking an indulgence and pampering experience.
“What we can say from the study is that bathing in the geothermal mineral water puts your body in the best possible place to heal itself.”
Around 40% of respondents with severe back pain, arthritis, injury, chronic pain, stress and anxiety reported their relief as ‘significant’ (lasting more than two days and/or reducing reliance on other treatments after bathing). The majority of bathers (82%) reported sleeping better after bathing, with 62% of those who reported much better sleep stating that the effect lasted for two days or longer. Research supervisor Professor Marc Cohen, advised “the finding that 98% of respondents reported general health benefits and 82% reported improved sleep after bathing suggests that most bathers believe hot spring bathing improves health and wellbeing, and provides more than just entertainment or indulgence.”
Study co-author James Clark-Kennedy stated “the further finding that 28% of respondents consider the relief of specific medical conditions as an important reason for bathing, and that 99% of bathers with medical conditions felt better after bathing and reduced reliance on other therapies, suggests that hot spring bathing has specific therapeutic benefits.
“Our findings are consistent with European spa-goers’ perception that the spa experience can be effective for curative or therapeutic purposes.”
‘Balneotherapy’ is the treatment of medical conditions by bathing in mineral springs, which is very much part of routine medical care in Europe and Japan.
Professor Cohen advised “as balneotherapy is not currently covered by health insurers in Australia, and Peninsula Hot Springs and other hot springs have not specifically promoted the therapeutic benefits of bathing, it is likely that these benefits are not fully realised.”
Susie Ellis, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Global Wellness Institute, a non-profit organisation with a mission to empower wellness worldwide by educating public and private sectors about preventative health and wellness, concluded “the RMIT University study shines light on the US$50 billion thermal/mineral springs industry; a key component of the US$563 billion wellness tourism industry.
“The research gives concrete evidence around the wellness benefits beyond relaxation and indulgence that hot springs deliver, including a better night’s sleep as well as relief from back pain, arthritis and stress.
“This research should prove invaluable for the promotion of the health and wellness benefits of hot springs bathing,”
Within Australia, commercial geothermal mineral springs are a fledgling industry with just 23 commercial thermal/ mineral springs establishments generating revenue estimated at $61.5 million in 2013.
This is small in comparison to wellness tourism in Australia, which is estimated to generate 4.6 million trips and directly employ 55,650 people with a $5.3 billion expenditure, ranking Australia 16th in the top 20 wellness tourism markets worldwide (according to Global Wellness Institute 2014).
Since opening in 2005, Peninsula Hot Springs has grown to receive over 460,000 visitors per year with expansion underway to allow for over 600,000 visitors per year by 2018. There are also a number of new hot spring facilities being developed on the Mornington Peninsula that will further establish it as Australia’s largest hot springs region.
Click here to view the full journal article in the Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research.
Images: Complementary therapies at Peninsula Hot Springs.
3rd February 2017 - PENINSULA HOT SPRINGS OPENS CLAY BASED WELLNESS EXPERIENCE
20th October 2016 - MORNINGTON PENINSULA HOT SPRINGS TO BE EXPLOITED FOR WELLNESS TOURISM
10th June 2016 - FITNESS INDUSTRY SAYS ‘YES’ TO GLOBAL WELLNESS DAY
11th April 2016 - WELLNESS TOURISM ON THE RISE
22nd January 2016 - PENINSULA HOT SPRINGS PLANS POOLS AND ACCOMMODATION EXPANSION
9th September 2013 - TONY BLAIR HEADS CAST OF 60 EXPERTS AT WTTC ASIA SUMMIT
20th August 2012 - MASSAGE THERAPY IS NOT A SEX SERVICE
19th August 2010 - TAPPING INTO HEALTH AND WELLNESS TOURISM
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