Health tourism initiative developed in the mountains of Austria

RegioStars 2012 FinalistThe ‘Hohe Tauern Health’ (HTH) initiative was launched in the Oberpinzgau region of Austria in 2008 to develop the peripheral, mountainous area as an innovative tourist destination, exploiting the recognised health benefits of the local Krimml Waterfalls.

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Tourism in this part of the Hohe Tauern National Park region near Salzburg has been stagnating in recent years. The regional authorities therefore set out to develop of new range of health-related tourism products exploiting the health benefits of a notable local feature, the Krimml Waterfalls. Scientific evidence had demonstrated that fine mist in the vicinity of the waterfalls is effective against asthmatic and allergic diseases. In addition, specific features of the National Park region are low pollution, low levels of fungal spores, and a short flowering season – therefore making it an ideal place for a bronchial asthma treatment or cure.

Indeed, the Paracelsus Medical University in Austria has been investigating the medicinal qualities of the Krimml Waterfalls since 2006 and has set up a scientific laboratory nearby.

Exploiting the curative effect of the waterfalls

Asthma and allergic rhinitis rank among the most frequent chronic diseases in western societies. The curative effect of the waterfalls means that a holiday with a daily stroll around the waterfalls can reduce the symptoms not only during the stay, but with positive effects lasting over a few months.

The project has been developed in close cooperation with the regional authorities, the regional tourism association and the National Park administration. An initial feasibility study looked at the allergologic conditions hotels had to fulfil, how these could be certified, which hotels would be eligible, and whether a sufficient number of hotels could be found. Out of this process a group of 11 three and four star hotels emerged, which have jointly carried on the development of the project.

The hotels have invested in the required renovation and adaptation measures to classify them as ‘Certified Allergy’ hotels. They are able to offer anti-allergic university-certified rooms that ensure a good night’s sleep and provide access to medical services as part of their ‘premium product’.

Establishing a link between the medical community and tourism

The link between the medical community and tourism ensures that services catering to tourists will develop based on certified scientific knowledge and evidence.

Such development can be seen through the number of tourist stays in the summer season in Krimml, which has increased enormously – from 60 000 in 2008 to 70 000 in 2009 and 78 000 in 2010, i.e. an increase of 30 % within two years.

The idea has also spread to the local wood and construction industry, where the idea to develop ‘allergy-proof’ wood products (from furniture to houses) has been taken up.

The project is already seen as a reference for similar activities in the Salzburg region and neighbouring countries.

Total and EU funding

The project “Hohe Tauern Health” has a total eligible budget of EUR 500 000 with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 125 000 for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

Draft date