Indulgence or therapy? Exploring the characteristics, motivations and experiences of hot springs bathers in Victoria, Australia
Hot springs are a $50 billion global industry and a growing segment of the wellness tourism sector, yet no previous research has focused on the views of hot spring users and the drivers for hot spring visitation in Australia are unclear. We performed a cross-sectional observational study through an online Qualtrics survey to assess the characteristics, motivations and experiences of visitors to Australia’s largest commercial hot spring. Primary analysis of data from 4265 mostly female respondents involved descriptive statistics, which aimed to describe trends around respondents’ characteristics, motivations and experiences. The data on respondents’ medical conditions was further analysed to determine the perceived benefit/harm for each condition. Analysis revealed that “relaxation,” “peace and tranquility,” “indulgence” and “escape” were the most important motivators for bathing. Most respondents reported general health benefits (98%) and better sleep (82%) from bathing, one third experienced fainting/dizziness. One third of respondents also had medical conditions. Significant benefits were reported for back pain, arthritis, stress/anxiety, depression and insomnia. These results suggest that while relaxation is currently the major driver of hot spring visitation, balneotherapy warrants consideration from Australian health practitioners and insurers as a complementary therapy.