Katie Holland

Katie Holland is the Rotorua Daily Post deputy editor

Potential in hot springs

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An international expert believes Rotorua has the potential to become a global leader in hot springs tourism.

Charles Davidson, the co-founder of Australia's first commercial hot springs bathing facility, was in Rotorua last week to speak to Grow Rotorua and local hot pool and spa operators.

He was impressed with the city's geothermal assets and growth potential.

"There are opportunities all over Rotorua, it's amazing," he said.

"There could be a total lift to the whole economy."

Grow Rotorua chief executive Francis Pauwels said the health and wellness sector was "booming" around the world.

His organisation is currently preparing a spa and wellness sector strategy focusing on growth potential, barriers, investment opportunities and potential investors, including opportunities for iwi participation.

As part of this, Grow Rotorua invited Mr Davidson to Rotorua to share his extensive knowledge of the hot springs spa and bathing market.

In 2006, Mr Davidson co-founded Peninsula Hot Springs, 90 minutes from Melbourne, which generated 180 jobs. It now attracts 350,000 visitors and is growing at 20 per cent per year.

Based in Japan, Mr Davidson travels the world advising various groups on the hot springs industry.

He and Methven-based James White are undertaking a global research project which will be used by Grow Rotorua to help identify the key elements for further sustainable development in Rotorua - whether that be expansion of existing facilities or creation of new ones.

Mr Davidson said hot springs had wide appeal and could be utilised for anything from relaxation to recreation to themed water parks and of course health and rehabilitation.

He said he would like to see Rotorua's historic QE Health become an international "centre of excellence" of balneology (the science of the therapeutic effects of baths and bathing) - with the region's best doctors based there.

The growing transtasman connection has also opened the door to combined promotional efforts - it is estimated up to seven million bathers could visit the Victorian and Rotorua hot spring spa facilities per year.

Mr Pauwels said future marketing would be a combined effort with Rotorua Airport, Destination Rotorua and the Rotorua Tourism Committee.

It would also require collaboration with Waiariki Institute of Technology to ensure the city trained enough qualified spa staff, he said.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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