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Health tourism in Bistrita-Nasaud County has a tradition of four centuries, with the Sangeorz-Bai spa on the upper portion of the Somesul Mare River, nearly 50 km away from the city of Bistrita, having been a favourite holiday destination for many Romanians until 25 years ago.

Sangeorz-Bai Spa Complex
Photo credit: (c) Tina TUCUI / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

In the meantime, the absence of substantial investment in the tourist accommodation infrastructure has led to a decrease in the number of tourists at Sangeorz from one year to the other. Yet the Baile Figa spa, opened on a European investment four years ago near the town of Beclean, 40 km away from the county capital, has caught up with it.

* The town of Sangeorz-Bai became a spa town in the 17th century. It possesses sparkling mineral water springs rich in chloride, sodium, calcium and magnesium, as well as mineral mud and mofette.

The Sangeorz-Bai mineral water is said to rival in properties the springs of Vichy (France) and Karlovy Vary (the Czech Republic), and it is in high demand for treating digestive tract diseases, hepato-biliary diseases, nutritional and metabolic diseases, as well as rheumatic diseases. The spa is equipped with electrotherapy and hydrotherapy installations for inhalations, warm mineral mud wraps, paraffin wraps, medical gymnastics and fitness halls.

Sangeorz-Bai’s fame as a holiday destination is proved by the existence of two local hotels of 900 places and 600 places, respectively. Only some decades ago, they would be full to capacity and they were the picture postcard examples for the tourists that would come here for treatment or relaxation.

Besides the two hotels, guesthouses and villas have also been built, but the number of tourists here has plummeted so much that in wintertime the two big hotels either barely operate or place their employees on short work.

The town’s mayor, Roland Venig, says the number of tourists barely stays below 5,000 a year, most of whom are pensioners coming on treatment tickets and students spending their summer holiday at the Sangeorz-Bai camp, the only operational camp in the entire county. That is why the local administration barely collects anything of the accommodation taxes, because pensioners and students are exempt from such tax.

The Sangeorz-Bai Mayoralty has nevertheless got European funds to rehabilitate the town’s support infrastructure for the development and improvement of tourist activities under a project jointly conducted with the town of Turda, Cluj County, that was completed in 2012. Ten streets leading to the town’s landmarks were modernised, along with the alleys in the spa’s park and related parking lots and street furniture, while water supply and sewage works as well as public lighting were improved.

* Whereas the current owners of the hotels at Sangeorz-Bai have no intention of investing the necessary amounts in restarting health tourism there, at Figa, administratively belonging to the town of Beclean, a spa resort came into existence that manages to attract 25 times more tourists than Sangeorz-Bai does. The Figa spa resort was established under a regional infrastructure project for economic and social cohesion, the PHARE 2004-2006 programme, alongside the spa resorts of Baile Cojocna and Ocna Dej of Cluj County. The overall objective of the project was improving regional infrastructure for economic growth by establishing a favourable framework that would attract local and foreign investors.

Opening of Figa spa resort
Photo credit: (c) Tina TUCUI / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The Figa investment, five km away from the town of Beclean, opened in June 2010. The design of Baile Figa cost nearly 1.9 million euros, one million euros of which were European funds, and the construction works comprised sport fields, therapy centres, camping lots, saltwater and freshwater swimming pools, a mud pool, an indoor swimming pool, playgrounds for children, access ways and pedestrian alleys. The tourist potential of the spa includes therapeutic water springs rich in chlorine and sodium and saltwater mud, which is particularly efficient in treating peripheral nervous system disorders, diseases of the locomotor apparatus and female genitalia.

In the autumn of 2010, preparations started for the construction of a small aqualand with three water toboggans, a project that qualified for 500,000 euros in European funds and that was completed in two years’ time. When the summer season 2011 started, the spa added a new saltwater lake to its offerings, which maximum depth is four metres, and a leisure ground called the Lazy River, a place where tourists can relax on floats.

Photo credit: (c) Tina TUCUI / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Tourists coming to Baile Figa this year will be met with new surprises. Beclean Mayor Nicolae Moldovan says a new 500-sq.m. lake has been created, salinity of the existing saltwater swimming pools has been increased, the beach area has been extended by 500 chaise-longues to the previously existing 1,500, new rest rooms have been created and more shower stalls.

Moreover, tourist accommodation is said to no longer be a problem. While in the beginning, the only accommodation facilities were the hotels and guesthouses of Beclean, four years later now cabins, guesthouses and a camping lot have sprung up, all private investments.

Some 1,000 accommodation places are thus secured, says Mayor Moldovan, adding that still the number of people arriving at Baile Figa, both local and tourists, is 130,000 a year.

Photo credit: (c) Tina TUCUI / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Close to the Baile Figa spa complex covering 15 hectares, a 3,000-year-old abandoned salt mine has been discovered. The area is located in a depression crossed by the Paraul Sarat stream, on which banks many traces of decommissioned salt mining settlements were found. Diggings have unearthed special wood implements used for mining salt, stone mining hammers, wood fences and structures and a well in the entrance area of the salt mine flanked by overlapping massive beams, most likely dating back to the second period of the Iron Age. The local archaeological site is currently considered to be the oldest and most important saliferous site in South-Eastern Europe, and efforts are being made to capitalise on it, including for tourist purposes. AGERPRES

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