Revitalising the healing tradition - health tourism potential of thermal springs in the Western Cape
There are 11 thermal springs in the Western Cape, seven of which have been developed into eight resorts. Only one of these resorts has a focus on health and wellness, with appropriate facilities, with the others functioning primarily as family leisure resorts. Internationally there has been a move by traditional thermal spring resorts to begin offering a combination of health (medical and wellness) services in combination with leisure activities. In light of current international trends, as well as perceived domestic needs, it appears that the Western Cape‟s thermal spring resources are not being optimally utilized as tourist attractions, neither for domestic nor for international tourist markets. This research sets out to evaluate the potential for health tourism development of thermal springs in the Western Cape. It analyses relevant aspects of both the supply and demand sides of thermal spring tourism in the Western Cape. A database is compiled of thermal spring resorts and undeveloped thermal springs in the Western Cape, which includes facilities and services, and relative locations with respect to tourist attractions and tourism routes. The mineral and radon gas contents of the respective thermal waters are measured and discussed in relation to known medicinal properties. A questionnaire-based survey was undertaken, involving 383 respondents at six resorts, and activity-based market segmentation was carried out using k-means cluster analysis. A four-segment user profile (typology) of current visitors, based on activity preferences, was compiled. It was found that there is considerable potential for the development of thermal spring health (medical and wellness) tourism products in the Western Cape, based on available resources. A framework for thermal spring health tourism product development in the Western Cape is proposed, and recommendations are made for future development and marketing. Key recommendations include the development of balneological treatments, and radon therapies, at certain resorts, and investigating of the availability of local resources that could be incorporated into medical or wellness tourism products.