In the cold season, many people seek relaxation in the cozy warmth of a thermal bath. But the high gas and electricity prices are forcing many operators to save – some don’t survive at all.
Thermal baths and thermal baths are the figureheads of spas and health resorts in Germany – but the energy crisis and inflation have made their operation enormously expensive.
This also poses major financial challenges for the municipalities as the responsible bodies. The first facilities have already had to close temporarily or even completely, and others are likely to do so. The German Spas Association sounds the alarm and calls for rapid state aid, because spas are of enormous importance for tourism, business and medical care in rural areas.
In Bad Salzhausen, Hesse, for example, the Justus von Liebig thermal baths recently had to close. After high deficits in the past, one had to “pull the rip cord” in view of the rapid increase in gas and electricity prices, it said from the spa. The festival city of Bad Hersfeld also temporarily closed its Kurbad Therme on November 1st – to save gas. A wellness operation on the back burner is not an option for the East Hessian city. Other facilities are trying to reduce costs through shorter opening hours or the temporary closure of sauna areas, such as some companies in Rhineland-Palatinate. This should also be imminent in Baden-Württemberg, as the spa association in the south-west had explained.
Price increases as a consequence
Some providers are also reacting with price increases, for example in Thuringia. But that could also scare off guests who are currently keeping their money together because of worries about inflation and may therefore stay away – so that the bottom line is that the baths would not take any more, says Brigitte Goertz-Meissner, President of the German Spa Association.
She fears a downward spiral with dire consequences for the locations: If pools have to limit their offers or even close them completely, this will also affect the rehabilitation clinics as well as the hotel, catering and retail sectors in the affected cities. A decline would then be inevitable. Last but not least, affected communities also have to fear for their status as spas.
The thermal baths could not simply lower the water temperature to save energy because then the health benefits of the healing springs would be lost, for example for rheumatism patients, said Goertz-Meissner. In thermal baths, the water comes out of the ground warm, but the air in the baths and in the changing, relaxation and therapy rooms must also be heated in order to be able to take full advantage.
Hardship fund for companies that can hardly save electricity
From Goertz-Meissner’s point of view, the health facilities of the spa resorts must therefore urgently benefit from the planned hardship fund. The federal and state governments had decided to make twelve billion available from the Economic Stabilization Fund for institutions and companies that can hardly save electricity and gas. Eight billion of this should go to clinics and care facilities.
Before Corona, the 350 or so German health and spa resorts had a total of around 520,000 employees – but the number had already shrunk significantly during the pandemic because operations had to be temporarily restricted and many employees left, says Goertz-Meissner. That is why specialists such as doctors and physiotherapists are urgently needed – especially since the rehabilitation clinics are increasingly also an important support in the care of long-Covid patients, the number of which is likely to continue to grow in the coming years. In addition, there are the many patients with chronic diseases of all ages, but also people who want to get back on their feet after an accident or surgery. Rehabilitation clinics are therefore “systemically relevant” and should not be left out of state aid again.
German Association of Towns and Municipalities: Dramatic situation
The German Association of Towns and Municipalities also speaks of a sometimes dramatic situation. Municipalities and operators whose energy supply contracts are expiring and who have to sign new contracts, sometimes at exorbitant prices, are particularly affected by pool closures. This also has negative effects, for example on school swimming, clubs or programs for seniors.
“It is therefore important that all municipal consumption points fall under the electricity and gas price cap,” said the association. He also demanded that affected municipalities and their facilities be included in the hardship regulation and aid programs. “Up until the outbreak of the Ukraine war, the municipalities had total energy costs of around 5 billion euros a year. They are now threatening to multiply, and that alone shows the enormous cost pressure on the cities and communities.”
Hotel industry also concerned
The hotel industry is also concerned about the situation – especially since the companies themselves are struggling with high costs, as Tobias Warnecke, Managing Director of the German Hotel Association, makes clear. They are currently working intensively on solutions to survive the cold months economically, for example with extensive investments in energy saving measures. “But that alone will not be enough to compensate for the huge increase in energy costs,” says Warnecke.
The ever-increasing purchase prices for groceries and rising personnel costs would make matters worse. A current Dehoga survey shows that without relief, 18.5 percent of the companies would see themselves forced to give up. Politicians must therefore deliver now and ensure energy security for the winter. “It would be completely unacceptable if individual companies or entire sectors had to be sent into hibernation,” said Warnecke.