Sociology Index

Health Tourism in Russia

According to, Russia achieved an overall rating of 57.01 with the quality of facilities and services scoring 61.15. The average age of spas' customers is 30-50 years. About 40% of guests are regular clients. The most popular seasons are spring, when chronical health problems are acute, and summer, period of holidays and traditionally preferable season for travel in Russia. As Russian spas now have to face competition in the national market with outbound trips, standards of comfort will have to be urgently introduced at spas to improve design and to upgrade services. There is a strong chance for its development and rediscovery on the basis of health tourism or Medical Tourism as it is called generally.

Health treatment at spas as an applied area of knowledge, dedicated to the aims of improvement and rehabilitation of health and based on the studies of curative properties of natural factors, refers to obvious achievements of Russian Medicine and health care.

No wonder the current initial stage of the new UNESCO project ARTHUR on global Heritage sites might extend its concept of Heritage through a study of Sochi, the core health resort of Russia. Indeed, the large-scale development and popularity of resorts was a remarkable feature of the XX century in Russia.

In the 1990s this sphere was practically ignored by the market reforms. Neither the new Law on Resort Destinations, nor the hectic adjustments introduced by the examples hardly valid in other sectors of the national economy, were adequate to reconsider the spas' mission and operations in a new systems approach and to reroute health resorts' development into the appropriate health tourism industry. While the new concepts of health tourism and resort business are in the air, some local initiatives are growing into good practices, while the immediate priorities are being researched and addressed by education.

From Heritage of Spa and Health Tourism in Russia: Inna Petroun, and Elena Yachina

Resort destinations in Cyprus, Malta, Italy, Greece, Spain, Bulgaria, Tunisia, France, Thailand, that do not provide the quality of Russian treatment at spas, yet offer more affordable prices and luxury. Domestic tourism is in the crises in the 1990s, and the most notable decay is in the sphere of health resorts, though recreation at spas used to be the most popular purpose and motivation for travel till 1980 in Russia, and though there is the tremendous and still growing need for health tourism.

Is Heritage a Threat to Health Resorts?

For 280 years Russia has been developing and advancing spa treatment. It was Peter the Great who constructed the first resort in Russia and issued a Statement, according to which development of treatment facilities and spas became an item on the state list of priorities. Russian aristocracy supported the idea, and Russian resorts leveled and up-scaled the West European kurorten in style, mannerism and fashion.

In 1917 there were 36 resorts in Russia, with 60 spas providing treatment with natural water springs, baths and curative mud. Their total capacity was 3000 beds. After the revolution the resorts fell under rule of Narkomzdrav. According to data of 1928, about 242 000 people per year enjoyed treatment at resorts in Russia. In 1940 there were 3600 spas and rest homes in the Soviet Union - with the total capacity for 470 000 guests.

Before the 1990s health tourism was a half-social, and half-ideological program, with highly subsided resort facilities and travel, and the Constitution rights of all citizens to enjoy leisure and recreational opportunities. Three organizations had their share in tourism until 1989: the state-owned "Goskomintourist" for international tourism, the Komsomol - owned "Sputnik" for youth travel and the State Council for Travel and Excursions - for incentive tourism.

The role of spas in Russian health service has always been based on rehabilitation of people who had suffered

Since the 1990s particular attention has been given to hydrobalneotherapy, due to which for quite a number of diseases and health problems there are well-established recommendations/prescriptions of spa types (climatic, or balneological, or local) and the desired season.