Birštonas, a well-known resort municipality in Lithuania, served as a gathering point for the first stakeholders’ meeting in the project. The city that was once associated with health care and preventive medicine, but suffered a decade-long decline with people turning to more attractive and innovative places to get SPA treatments, learned its way back to become one of the most prominent resort cities in Lithuania. To do so, it had to transform its old infrastructure into an attractive one and invite private investors to develop a whole new set of services for people with health issues and preventive medicine tourists. How did it do it?
The story of Birštona’s rebirth was one of the topics during the meeting. The major shared her experiences on the approach the city took to overcome difficulties and unpopularity among visitors. It took innovative strategy to get out of trouble and therefore the city was again open to new ideas and solutions to step it up and develop even further.
Yet, the biggest issue with the development of resort cities, especially the ones specialized in SPA treatment, is that preventive medicine as a whole does not receive enough attention either from the doctors or from public institutions that cover medical expenses for patients in Lithuania. SPA treatment is often associated with expensive leisure rather than with expression of healthy lifestyle. Due to its high costs, not everyone can afford it, let alone on weekly or monthly bases. The city of Birštonas has come up with the solution to introduce city cards for citizens with discounts for using any kind of preventive medicine services within the SPAs. However, it does not solve the problem on a big scale and for the majority of people it still too expensive even with all the discounts.
This issue has been noticed in political level as well. In order to boost interest in preventive medicine and healthy lifestyle in Lithuania, a proposal has been issued by the Parliament to provide tax deductions to employers who rewards their employees with SPA treatments or any other measure of preventive medicine. The proposal is still at the very draft version, but all stakeholders at the meeting have expressed their deepest support for the idea.
With all the issues surrounding preventive medicine sector in Lithuania, SPA owners and representatives from SPA resorts, present at the meeting, shared their willingness to learn the best practices from other project countries and regions on how to develop a more sound attitude towards healthy lifestyle within society and encourage it to engage into SPA treatments.