Spas are an ancient global phenomenon: prehistoric traces are found in
Europe, Africa and Asia. The word spa, which likely derives from the
eponymous town in present-day Belgium, came into use in the late
nineteenth century (before then, one went "to the baths" or "took the
waters"), is intended here to mean all the practices relating to mineral
springs, sometimes carbonated, sometimes still hot, for reasons of
health, rest, spirituality and overall wellness. The water can be drunk,
inhaled, gargled, applied to the skin with substances such as mud or
seaweed and taken as a bath or shower. Spas drove a major economic,
social and cultural phenomenon: tourism. This article examines their
development from the eighteenth century to the present.
How can a transatlantic perspective provide a fresh approach to the
historiography of spas? First, by shifting the focus away from Europe.
National case studies have shown that spas are a driver and marker of
contemporary economic and cultural globalization. Second---and this will
be the article's leitmotiv—by examining the specificities and
international circulation of spa practices.
The globalization of spas
After two centuries of fluctuating uses, several factors brought about
the unprecedented growth of spas starting in the eighteenth century. The
development of chemical analysis revealed that spring water contained
minerals that, it was hoped, could have medicinal properties. Spas fit
in with the Enlightenment idea of an ordered natural world created to
serve the needs of man. Physicians wrote treatises as never before, both
a sign and a driver of their popularity. The practice of "taking the
waters" dovetailed with contemporaneous medical discourse: the old
medicine based on the humors, the new vitalism (whose theorist,
Théophile de Bordeu, was the physician at the Barèges spa) and
hygienism. As a treatment, spas did what therapy was expected to do:
relieve symptoms or stimulate them the better to obtain a cure.
A new cultural trend bolstered the appeal of some spas: travel for
pleasure to rural and mountain settings. Taking the waters offered
tourists an opportunity to enjoy scenic, thrilling landscapes. Another
key factor was the economic opportunity that private owners and public
officials saw in mineral springs, spurring the construction of
accommodations and access infrastructure based on the models of Bath and
Spa. All of these aspects led to the brisk growth of spa towns in
Europe, from Karlsbad to Bagnères-de-Bigorre, Wiesbaden, Aix-en-Savoie
and Vichy, as well as across the Atlantic.
While colonization was an essential factor in the growth of spas, it
would be unwise to see them through a Eurocentric lens: indigenous
populations frequented mineral springs independently of colonial
influence. They were tools of colonial domination in the areas ruled by
Spain, Portugal, France and Great Britain. In Guadeloupe, for example,
from the beginning of the modern era to the twentieth century, white
residents fled the lowlands to springs in the Basse-Terre mountains
(Camp-Jacob, Ravine-Chaude, Dolé-les-Bains) to escape the tropical heat,
which was deemed unhealthy. Colonial officials and Europeans in general
sought out the waters for their reinvigorating properties, but also to
ward off dysentery, yellow fever and malaria. Spa towns were replicas of
France in the tropics; they manufactured familiar places in "exotic"
settings. Colonial resorts also had a role in reaffirming the cultural
identity of Europeans in places where they were outsiders.
This was a global phenomenon. Whites began using South Africa's many hot
springs in the late eighteenth century. Shortly before then, the
Portuguese had discovered springs in Brazil where people of European
origin sought medicinal relief for their ailments. In Cuba, a Spanish
colony until 1898, spas such as Ciego Montero and San Diego de los Baños
were patterned after models in the French and English colonies as key
places of healing, emotional sustenance and cultural renewal.
Mineral springs played a role in both colonial domination (diseases
ravaged Spanish soldiers) and economic development (in 1862, Cuba's
captain general set up a committee to improve the facilities at San
Diego). The idea of "racial preservation" was espoused in the United
States before the Civil War. Virginia's hot springs were segregated
spaces of regeneration for whites.
Specific national and regional trajectories
The United Kingdom, the birthplace of modern tourism, went its own way.
The British took the practice of taking the waters with them wherever
they established their dominion. At home, in the eighteenth century,
Bath became the first spa town to host tens of thousands of visitors.
After peaking during the Napoleonic period, when traveling to the
continent was impossible, English spas seem to have stalled just as the
phenomenon was growing in the rest of the world. A shift took place in
the early nineteenth century: Bath became a place of rest, refuge and
regeneration as its function as a hot springs resort faded. During the
long nineteenth century, seaside tourism grew more popular with ordinary
people as the continent and the rest of the world exerted a much
stronger power of attraction on British elites.
Thermal springs in metropolitan Spain are concentrated in the Pyrenees
and along the Atlantic coast. In contrast with France, growth was late
in coming—although, like in its Northern neighbor, the earliest
records and public edifices date from the last third of the eighteenth
century: the establishment in Caldas de Oviedo (Asturias) was built in
1773. While Spain exerted a romantic fascination, it was hard to reach
and, from 1808, rocked by political turmoil. Spas did not come into
their own until political stability returned in 1874. However, despite
their modest scale, they brought tourism to the country and laid the
groundwork for its brisk growth in the twentieth century.
In Mexico, severe instability across the nineteenth
century—independence struggles, war with the United States and French
intervention—also hindered the development of spas. Moreover, Mexico
seems to have gone its own way: visitors used public baths more for
hygienic than therapeutic purposes. The Aguascalientes spa resulted from
urban growth and not the other way around, as in Europe, where they
became the century's leading tourist destinations. A strategy to attract
visitors was also implemented. The Ojocaliente baths opened in 1831 as a
place of leisure for visitors to a large fair created in 1828. The case
of Aguascalientes also lays bare the tensions that arose from the
privatization of springs that had been public property. That friction
could be found around the world.
In the United States, many springs that had been located during the
colonial period were commercially exploited in the nineteenth century.
Local tycoons who had made fortunes in logging or owned large estates
built hotels. Hot Springs, Arkansas, "The American Spa", became the
first federal reserve in 1832, a precursor of the national park system.
In Saratoga Springs, New York, the water was bottled and bathing
facilities were built in the 1800s. White Sulphur Springs, West
Virginia, which Euro-Americans began using in 1778, became known as
"Queen of the Watering Places". A social whirl very similar to that
found in European spa towns emerged amidst mineral-water bottling
Spa-goers and tourists
Two factors can be said to distinguish contemporary spas: their
development as an industry and the growth of medical intermediation.
From being used freely, or guided by local customs, they came under the
domination of market forces and physicians.
Mineral springs had been frequented by the ancient Romans, then the
Muslims around the Mediterranean, of course, and well beyond. The Late
Middle Ages coincided with the use of thermal waters by the elite under
medical supervision. French aristocrats frequented them in the Pyrenees,
which received an additional boost from the development of firearms:
their sulfurous waters were used to heal gunshot wounds. Before and
after, rural populations continuously bathed in the thermal pools for
their restorative and medicinal properties, despite Christian abhorrence
of the practice. While the attraction seems almost universal, uses
depended on culture. Native Americans frequented mineral springs before
the Europeans arrived. In the Canadian Rockies, they used the waters at
Radium Hot Spring until an investor privatized them in 1890. In
sixteenth-century Mexico, the Spanish reported that indigenous people
bathed in hot springs on a daily basis, while the European custom was to
take them as a cure. In Argentina, the Indians bathed in springs and sea
water long before the Europeans arrived. In Cuba, there are more or less
legendary accounts of slaves who were healed by the waters. In what was
to become the United States, indigenous peoples indicated the existence
of places such as Saratoga Springs to the British. The rise of
"modern" spas led to the regulation of uses to discriminate between
places and the people who went there. The use of springs by elites and
colonizers was superimposed on the practices of indigenous peoples,
Blacks and Creoles.
A people's history of spas focusing more on Africa and populations of
more modest means on every continent undoubtedly has yet to be written.
In Europe, the Germanic states and France guaranteed access of the poor
to springs, a legacy of the Ancien Régime. In theory, spas were required
to host them free of charge, with communes and departments taking care
of travel and accommodation expenses. But in practice, the disadvantaged
were barred from the main resorts during the summer season or, at least,
during peak hours, to keep them from being seen by the paying leisured
classes. For a while, Napoleon reserved the baths in Amélie and Barèges
in the Pyrenees for his convalescing soldiers before being overwhelmed
by events in Spain. As in France, in Spain, military, in particular
colonial, needs sharpened the State's interest in baths. In 1787, a
royal ordinance gave the army the possibility of paying the full cost of
After being more or less banned from spas, local populations faded into
the background as mythological folklore. They were romantic servants in
European resorts or Indians in the United States. The memory of
indigenous peoples bolstered the imagery of the wildness and naive
authenticity of the springs and their surroundings. However, this
physical and cultural appropriation should be taken with a grain of
salt: many natives, racial and colonial oppression notwithstanding,
willingly acted out stereotypes for tourists in order to promote spas
and the areas in which they were located.
A history of uses would also be interesting. The Ojocaliente spring
(Mexico City, Aguascalientes) had multiple applications, from health to
personal and urban hygiene and horticulture. In Ax-les-Thermes (Ariège),
the thermal waters traditionally served to treat skin disorders, clear
snow from roads, bleach laundry and, it is said, cook food and boil
animal carcasses to remove the skin or feathers. They were also used to
treat animals. As springs became part of the market economy, medical
uses gradually prevailed.
Medicalization led to a paradox. In the nineteenth century, spas for the
most part attracted a healthy clientele, to the point where resorts
specializing in treating patients were neglected and drew fewer wealthy
visitors. In this context, hot springs became focal points for tourist
resorts. Thermal waters, resort life and local excursions allowed people
to flee the cities' moral and physical degradation, enjoy fresh air and
escape the industrialization, political turmoil and social problems that
plagued urban areas on both sides of the Atlantic.
Spas set global elites in motion. Reading Casanova's memoirs is all it
takes to picture a map of the most fashionable resorts in Enlightenment
Europe. The trend gathered speed and became transcontinental in the
nineteenth century, when people travelled between countries, colonies
and continents to take the waters. An astonishing variety of visitors
frequented the leading French spas, from Brazilians to Argentines,
Chileans and Mexicans. Every season, tourists from the United States
went to Luchon, Cauterets, Vichy and Aix-les-Bains by the hundreds. In
the early twentieth century, the Goodyear family traveled to the
Pyrenees. The Occitan names of the dozen Latin Americans in Aulus
(Ariège) in 1908 suggest that their ranks must have included immigrants
returning to France. Resorts were elite meeting places that became
increasingly open as the nineteenth century advanced and means of
transportation improved, allowing for shorter stays.
Not only tourists but also qualified hotel and casino staff were on the
move, including across the Atlantic. For example, professional casino
workers crisscrossed the world chasing contracts and seasons. A man born
in Luchon was a croupier in early twentieth century Buenos Aires before
working in Nice, Vichy, Bagnoles-de-l'Orne, San Sebastian and Monte
Carlo. Capital also flowed across borders and oceans (English pounds and
French francs to hotels and railroads in Latin America, American dollars
to Alpine resorts). French capitalists invested in Spanish casinos,
while capital from Marseille spread worldwide in the same field.
Cultural and ecological acclimatation centers
Spa entertainment was mocked for its mediocre quality: Performers
cheerfully massacred the musical and theatrical repertoires before
indifferent or ignorant audiences. However, these cultural offerings,
whose importance grew from the middle of the century with the arrival of
monumental casinos, were occasionally glittering events, as in
Aix-les-Bains and Vichy in France. The great national theater companies
toured the resorts during the summer. Parisian actors, dancers,
musicians and singers performed at resorts such as Luchon, where Paris
Opera director Pierre Gailhard (1848—1918) was a regular visitor. Every
spa, even the most modest ones, had a house orchestra that could range
in size from a dozen musicians in Ax-les-Thermes to eighty in Vichy.
They played the great repertoire, sometimes the most recent works
(Wagner's Tristan and Isolde premiered in France at Aix-les-Bains in
1897) and operettas, and accompanied classical theater and low-brow
plays. Well-attended concerts at casinos and bandstands, which were
prominent landmarks at the resorts, acclimated spa-goers to new sounds.
In 1902, music hall shows were introduced at Aix-les-Bains, where later
generations enjoyed jazz and rock. Even casinos at the most ordinary
resorts presented these imitative forms of music.
In Europe and the United States, golf, tennis, dances and horseraces
occupied the seasons. Daring imports were also attempted, such as
bullfights at Vichy, Spa and Luchon in the late nineteenth century.
Emerging sports such as cycling, automobile races and flying were
presented as shows. In the early twentieth century, European and
American mountain resorts introduced winter sports to extend the season.
Casinos, the ultimate places of tourist sociability after hotel
restaurants and lounges, offered ballrooms, theaters, cafés and
gambling. They marked the tourist space, with more or less monumentality
and depending on gambling regulations. They were controlled and limited
in Europe (in France before 1914, only small horses and baccarat could
be played, for example) or banned in England (after 1745), Switzerland
and Germany (after 1872), while in the United States popular games like
poker and roulette could be played.
Spas were places of ecological exchanges. They imported exotic species.
Redwoods were very common in parks and gardens, at least in the
Pyrenees, to evoke the American wilderness. In the twentieth century,
public and private fishing tourism promotors introduced rainbow and
brook trout from North America to European streams, while colonial
resorts imported European flora to recreate the climate, scents and
vegetation of home—and civilize resorts a little more.
Urban planners left a common mark on transatlantic spaces. Like ancient
cities, the foundation narratives of resorts were more or less shrouded
in myth. In North America, stories about the discovery and foundation of
each site featured Native Americans cooperating with Europeans. In
Europe, origin narratives began in Antiquity and ended with the arrival
of an important figure or the decisive act of a director or an
enthusiastic entrepreneur, like the dukes of Lorraine in Plombières, the
superintendent of Etigny in Luchon, Louis Ramond in Mont-Dore, Louis
Bouloumié in Vittel and François Brocard in La Bourboule. In any case,
public planning and investment seem to have played a key role in the
origins of the leading European resorts.
The urban planning of resort towns was surprisingly similar around the
world. In a way, the exploitation of nature's tourist potential led to
the reproduction of identical urban sites. Imitation was the rule.
French planners drew inspiration from Central European spa towns, which
themselves looked towards France, especially Vichy. Spain, where the spa
economy finally blossomed in the 1880s and 1890s, imitated the North.
Despite Bath's anterior status, England exported tourists but did not
become a model in Europe.
In the United States, the references were Victorian. Hot Springs,
Arkansas, which was admitted to the Union in 1803, gradually became a
spa town. Planners haphazardly aligned visitor accommodations along a
street in the hollow of the valley. From 1870, the state tried to
rationalize the springs' exploitation as well as urban planning and
architectural themes. After an 1878 fire, architects rebuilding the city
borrowed from the eclectic vocabulary of European resorts. Majestic
buildings in brick, stone and marble replaced wooden ones. Between 1900
and 1920, Hot Springs became a real spa town with the hotels, mansions,
thermal baths, a park, an artificial lake and promenades characteristic
of European resorts set in nature.
In Saratoga Springs, New York, grand hotels rose in the first half of
the nineteenth century. By 1849, they could accommodate 40,000 people,
on a par with the highest European figures. While most of the buildings
were cheaply constructed of wood, they featured European-inspired
Latin America's spa towns imitated European models, the ultimate
embodiment of the holiday resort. While Cuba adopted the Spanish model,
in Argentina the resorts that sprang up in the late nineteenth century
followed a British pattern. This was a consequence of the informal
empire, in particular the funding of railway companies by English
capital. Immigrants from Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Germany,
Switzerland and Italy undoubtedly spread and maintained the practice of
taking the waters in the New World. In Brazil, most spas began growing
in the early twentieth century. Cities like Poços de Caldas (Minas
Gerais) were founded whose urban planning, financed by private capital,
drew inspiration from the great European resorts, especially Vichy,
Baden-Baden, Aix-les-Bains, Luchon and Montecatini.
Everywhere, railways spurred the growth of spas. Banff sprang up from
the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In Great Britain, railways
reached coastal areas before spa towns, which led to their decline and
fostered the democratization of seaside resorts in the industrial
Northwest as early as the 1870s. Later, the automobile put more sites
within easy reach, sometimes at the expense of spas, which fell out of
favor with tourists.
A sufficiently descriptive and general pattern appertaining to all the
urban forms of spa towns on both sides of the Atlantic could be
identified: waters flowing through pre-existing cities where spa
activities developed alongside others; waters flowing near the town,
polarizing new districts with a tourist function; and waters flowing
through the countryside giving rise to new towns, sometimes limited to a
spa hotel. However, each country had its own specific features: for
example, spas in remote rural areas were nearly non-existent in Great
Britain, where the few known cases were unsuccessful.
On both sides of the Atlantic, spas spread through imitation and
colonial development. They were manifestations of cultural globalization
and its local offshoots, even in valleys perceived from the outside as
cut off from the world and enjoyed for that reason.
American troops were stationed at French spas during the First World
War, attesting to the fact that they were still held in high regard.
However, cracks in the medical credibility of hot springs began to
appear. In the nineteenth century, they were expected to treat and even
cure many ailments, from rheumatism to cancer, rashes, digestive
disorders, venereal diseases, malaria and tuberculosis. Medical
advances, especially the discovery in France and Germany of bacteria as
a cause of disease in the 1870s and 1880s, posed a serious challenge.
Antiseptics like Dankin's solution could disinfect open wounds and
prevent gangrene. The discovery of vaccines for illnesses like
tuberculosis, the progress of medical science and the growth of the
pharmaceutical industry from the 1910s onwards offered spa treatments
stiff competition. In the 1940s, the mass production of penicillin
jeopardized the role of sanatoriums and spas in the treatment of
infectious diseases. Medical spas gradually lost their relevance, their
markets and much of their credibility. The rise of seaside bathing and
tanning, which accelerated between the wars, also contributed to the spa
towns' dwindling appeal to tourists.
They reacted in various ways. Responding to medical progress,
technological treatments arose in the nineteenth century. Electricity,
massages, showers, inhalations, vibrations and radioactivity were
introduced. Before 1914, some major resorts cared little about keeping
visitors' loyalty because they had diversified their tourist offerings.
The falling numbers of spa-goers were offset by a surge of tourists who
no longer came for the waters. Elsewhere, sometimes precociously, spa
towns broke their dependency on the springs by branching out into other
commercial, residential or industrial activities (Bath and Harrogate in
England, Bagnères-de-Bigorre in France). Another line of attack, which
gathered momentum after 1945, was to focus on chronic ailments, such as
certain skin, respiratory, digestive and rheumatoid diseases that
medicine was unable to treat. After the diversification of tourism,
medical specialization began to emerge, with resorts imposing rigorous
therapeutic regimens. The shift was sometimes made early, such as in
Battle Creek, Michigan, which in 1876 turned to medicalization,
sanatoriums and strict diets under the direction of John Harvey Kellogg.
Some spas forged partnerships with cosmetics companies to develop
products that combine the waters' natural properties with advances in
chemistry. A prominent example of this trend is Vichy's collaboration
As differences grew more important than convergences on the
transatlantic scale, a common pattern emerged: governments became more
directly involved in the twentieth century. In the nineteenth, European
States intervened by implementing regulations: medical inspections to
monitor the waters for uses, discipline and cleanliness (1785 in France,
1816 in Spain, 1818 in Portugal and Brazil); rules on accommodation of
the poor; administrative directives; a gambling law (1907 in France);
and a spa tax, first in the German States, then France (1910). In the
twentieth century, systematic bacteriological testing became mandatory.
The American states intervened even more directly, monitoring thermal
resources deemed strategic, despite their decline. In the early
twentieth century, the State of New York began buying up springs in
Saratoga Springs to rationalize their use. Governor Franklin D.
Roosevelt fervently promoted the springs, and after becoming president a
spa complex was built under the auspices of his New Deal Works Progress
Administration (WPA). The Canadian government acquired Radium Hot
Springs in the early twentieth century. In Chile, the State nationalized
tourism in 1930 and made beaches, mountains, snow and spas (especially
in Jahuel) points of attraction in the context of an emerging Latin
American rivalry to attract visitors.
From the 1930s to the 1980s, spa towns seemed to be declining almost
everywhere. In the United States, the number of springs commercially
exploited as spas or for bottled mineral water fell from 2,000 in 1930
to 500 in the late twentieth century. Saratoga Springs fared better than
others. In the 1960s, the decision was made to focus on wellbeing
packages and to build a performing arts center (1966) that became the
summer residence of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York City
Ballet. Hot Springs declined steeply until the 1980s, with spas closing
one after another, but in the late 1990s, deluxe hotels offering
in-house spas, entertainment, aquariums and trips to local farms marked
a fresh start. In 2010, Hot Springs even produced the first beer made
with spa water. The resort updated its image, with the result that the
accommodation occupation rate has risen from 10% in the 1980s to 90%
today. The city's charming architecture is a major draw. Elsewhere,
niche markets such as anti-aging, anti-stress and weight-loss treatments
sometimes gave spas a new lease on life. In the 1950s, seaside resorts
in Brazil became more popular than spas, which at first were frequented
by the elite, but that did not prevent some of them from expanding.
Caldas Novas, whose first master plan was drawn up in 1910, has boomed
since the 1960s. The world's largest spa, it also became the most
popular after introducing festive activities that now attract more
visitors than the springs.
Once discredited by medical progress, spas received a boost from the
rising popularity of "natural" medicine in the late twentieth and early
twenty-first centuries. In 1986, the WHO recognized the therapeutic
value of spas as an accompaniment to treatments and convalescence.
Wellness and recreational activities began to grow. South American
countries promoted their spas within the more general framework of
health tourism, which has risen by over 10% since the 1980s and attract
guests from the Northern countries, reversing the flow seen in the
previous century. Spas are presented as an alternative to mass beach
tourism offering more genuine contact with nature. In the 1990s, Costa
Rica began promoting its spas to break into the high-end sustainable
tourism market. Echoing, in a way, what had happened elsewhere in the
nineteenth century, spas were marked by architecturally eclectic
buildings and foreign influences, from landscaping to parks, waterfalls,
lakes and hiking trails. They became recreational resorts life rather
than healthcare facilities.
France was somewhat out of step with the global trend. From 1947 until
the 1980s, the country's social health insurance system reimbursed
cures, ensuring a prosperous period but also creating a strong
dependence on policies for the insured, who accounted for over 90% of
the clientele. It also meant that doctors were instrumental in running
spas, which impeded diversification. In the 1980s and 1990s, French spas
lagged far behind those of other countries in making the shift to
recreational resorts, just as medical demand began to stagnate and
decline because of an ageing clientele, fewer prescriptions and
shrinking therapeutic markets due to competition from pharmaceutical
companies. Anxious to maintain the waters' medical credibility,
physicians frowned upon the development of leisure and wellness
activities, which moreover could provide grist for an old criticism: spa
cures were vacations in disguise at the public's expense. Therefore, the
leading resorts were slow to focus on wellness activities, while after
1945, spas in Germany and Italy were the first to introduce them. Spa
treatments were portrayed as a therapeutic supplement rather than an
alternative to conventional medicine.
A new movement has emerged in recent decades: spas as architectural and
historical heritage. They highlight specific places yet attest to
cultural and economic globalization. Bath, the first spa town, which
fell into decline in the nineteenth century and saw its baths close in
the 1960s, began preserving and promoting its heritage in the 1970s. In
1974, the Hot Springs spa district was placed on the National Register
of Historic Places. Saratoga Springs served as the model for a hotel
with an in-house spa at Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. In France, the
process has run less smoothly. The preservation and conservation of
heritage conflicts with the need to update tourist, hotel and medical
infrastructure. In Luchon, the first purpose-built guest accomodation
was designated an official historic site in 1927,. Etigny's lanes
followed in 1947, but the other buildings, including the baths that
opened in 1852, did not receive protected status until the 1970s. In
Auvergne, the process did not begin until the late 1990s, when planners
conducted a survey and developed an itinerary called the "Route des
villes d'eaux du Massif central" ("The Road of Massif Central Spa
Towns"). This long-overlooked built heritage has become a tourism
diversification tool. Promoting heritage to create a brand image: the "Route des villes
d'eaux du Massif central"
The heritage movement reached its peak when UNESCO placed a network of
eleven European spa towns on its World Heritage List in 2021. Together
they illustrate a model of elite excellence that spread on both sides of
the Atlantic, but they do not reflect the variety of places and spa
As John Walton wrote, spas are "an important but neglected set of
phenomena with global reach but local traditions and
manifestations". Tourism and spas were a part of the industrial
revolutions and a form of cultural globalization. Their history is
marked by constant tensions arising from harnessing the springs as well
as conflict between their medical and recreational uses. Today they are
alive and well. Brazil even launched a reimbursement program in 2006.
But the rise of recreational centers and leisure resorts is diminishing
their specific features. Today, they include many hotel amenities that
no longer have anything to do with thermal waters. After privatization
and medicalization, banalization and artificialization may be two of the
greatest threats to natural spas.