Austrian Pilot Action 

Strengthening regional partnership in selected SPA regions in Upper Austria

Like other partner regions, also Upper Austria is faced with challenges of sustainable management of healing water sources because of conflictual demands. To secure high ecological and regional welfare standards in the use of healing water the implementation of common regional strategies will become more and more important. In order to increase awareness of healing water problems and the protection of the sources on a regional level, the pilot action is anchored in two pilot regions, which are presented below:

Pilot Region Bad Zell/Tourism Association “Mühlviertler Alm Freistadt”

In the centre of the pilot region 1 of the PP4 pilot action is a part of the Mühlviertel, a hilly region in the northeast of Upper Austria. The landscape of the region is characterized by forests and fields (see picture below) and the region belongs to the granite and gneiss highlands. 

 A glimpse of hills of the Mühlviertel region:


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Closely related to these granite types of the Bohemian Massif in the region, there is an accumulation of springs with increased radon concentrations in the Mühlviertel. These are characterized by a higher uranium content with which the water circulating in the crevices comes into contact. The radioactive noble gas radon is created as an intermediate product via natural decay processes, which is subsequently released from the rock into the water or soil air. The best-known radon-containing water resource in the region is the so called Hedwigsbründle, from which the health center in Bad Zell is fed. Already in the 1950s the investigations of this healing water source began and the Upper Austrian state government issued the official declaration on the healing spring (radon). In the early 1970s the construction of a spa house started and 1976 the municipality “Zell bei Zellhof” has officially been a health resort, renamed to “Bad Zell”.Today, Bad Zell is an established tourism community with consistently decent numbers of overnight stays and arrivals. Based on the Upper Austrian Tourism Act 2018, Bad Zell was classified as “A municipality”. This means that the overnight stays of the municipality reach twice the value of the country's average overnight stay intensity.    

Not least because of the health and wellness centre, in terms of overnight stays the spa municipality Bad Zell is the most important municipality within the touristic region  Mühlviertler Alm Freistadt.  The strong importance of the facility for the whole region can also be seen in the thematic orientation of the association, which is based very strong on nature and health topics. Nevertheless, an even stronger positioning of the water offer in the region and a better link to other offers would be possible and desirable in order to ensure the future of the Bad Zell health and wellness centre.

For this reason, an analysis of the above mentioned other healing springs – the so called “Heilbründle” (healing springs) – in the region is being carried out in the course of the pilot action by PP4. The Heilbründle have been known throughout the region for a long time, but have hardly received any scientifically based attention so far. Within the HealingPlaces project a specific existing offer is identified, the healing effects are confirmed and the integration into the tourist offer is made possible. In this way, the awareness of the resource “healing water” can be increased and partnerships along the topic of “healing water” throughout the region can be strengthened.

Pilot Region Geinberg/Tourism associaton “s’Innviertel

The second pilot region is located in the Innviertel, the north-western part of Upper Austria. It is a fertile, densely populated, flat to hilly landscape of the Alpine foothills and is situated between the Salzach, Inn, Danube and Hausruck. The area of the Innviertel is around 2250 km² and the population is just under 218,000.

The view over the Innviertel:


This region is particularly interesting for the HealingPlaces project because it is located directly on the Molasse Basin. This significant natural thermal water depot, with a sediment package up to 3000 m thick, is in the border area between Lower Bavarian and Upper Austria. In recent decades the use of the thermal water in this region - for balneological reasons as medicinal water and for bathing purposes as well as for geothermally reasons for energy generation - has developed into an important economic factor. Finally, this intensive use of water resources has even led to considerable pressure drops. Which is particularly important, since the mighty coverage has the consequence that the new formation rate is very low and the water occurrence is several thousand years old.

Thus, the increasing number of applications for the use of the thermal water made it necessary to consider the water management issues to a greater extent than before and management measures were necessary in order to secure the existing use and to enable future use to an extent that is economically justifiable. In order to ensure the sustainable management of this thermal water deposit on both sides, Bavaria and Austria developed a common protection and use strategy and set it down in policy documents in March 2002. This ensured a uniform procedure across borders while adhering to the state of the art. Topics such as the water management requirements for thermal water use, design parameters for the use of the systems, principles for the application, care and maintenance of the systems, requirements for the approval process and principles for information exchange were processed.

Within this district in Upper Austria there are several tourism associations with different thematic orientations. One of them is the association “s'Innviertel", which has around 1,300 member companies in 21 member communities and achieves a total of almost 300,000 overnight stays. Beside cycling (Inn and Römerradweg, KTM-Kobernaußerwald-Mountainbike-Arena) and  culinary art (beer region Innviertel with beer march, Surspeck, dumplings & Co) the region has a very strong focus on the topic of health and wellness. This is also based on the spa resort in Geinberg, a wellness and thermal bath landscape in the municipality of Geinberg. Until the opening of the spa in April 1998, tourism played no role in this municipality. Anyway, today is the spa - with 102,000 m² - the largest spa in Upper Austria. An average of 1.000 to 2.000 people visits the thermal offer every day.[1] The municipality of Geinberg has recorded more than 100.000 overnight stays in the touristic year 2018/2019 and thus is one of the most important health municipalities in Upper Austria.

The 19 new tourism associations, t.a. “s‘Innviertel” (circled) and Geinberg (flag):