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Luxury Spas Ride Boom in Wellness Industry in Poland

Exotic treatments such as a soothing guilt-free chocolate body wrap or deep relaxation with Indian ayurvedic therapeutic oils were unheard of in post-communist Poland// just a few years ago.

But they are rapidly becoming a rage for the growing Polish middle and chattering classes, who seek a pampered lifestyle in the country's ever more numerous luxury spas.

"I received a present to spend a few very feminine hours in one of Warsaw's spas," Poland's capricious pop diva Edyta Gorniak revealed recently.

"This is one of the most wonderful gifts a man can give a woman, especially at my age," said the 32-year-old, who first gained fame as the Eurovision song contest runner-up in 1994 and, more recently, for baring her birthday suit in Poland's Playboy edition in January.

A robust 5.5 percent economic growth, new consumer habits and lifestyles imported from the West are fuelling a boom in luxury spas in the European Union newcomer - part of a health and wellness sector glowing with capitalism.

Said Pawel Bruczkowski, head of the freshly launched spaplanet.pl website and Spa&Wellness Magazine: "Poland's major cities including Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan, Wroclaw and Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot each have a dozen or so world-class professional day-spa facilities."

In Warsaw, some 30 percent of day-spa clients hail from abroad, and a rapidly sprouting crop of luxury hotel-spa and day-spa facilities are enticing Poles and foreigners with attractive prices for high quality treatments.

Most hotels belonging to major international chains in larger cities offer guests special massages at international prices, starting around 99 euro ($125) each.

Bruczkowski estimates there are around 50 Polish-owned hotels in major seaside and mountain resorts with professional spa facilities.

These Polish luxury hotels have discovered the healthy difference, which an in-house spa makes to bookings in t he off-season. A recent survey showed 80 percent of hotel owners were eager to invest in costly spa equipment like swimming pools and bone-chilling cryogenic chambers.

This is the vibrant new capitalist face of health and wellness in Poland. The sector also has a well-developed tradition of state-owned sanatoria, or health farms, dating from pre-1989 communist-era.

Then, they were the playgrounds of the proletariat, where miners and steelworkers were sent to re-charge their batteries. Seventeen years after the collapse of communism, they have been revamped and are now mostly the domain of senior citizens - not only from Poland.

Last year the country's state tourist board launched a media blitz in Western Europe featuring a buxom young nurse.

Designed to attract attention to Poland's sanatoria, she stood against a backdrop of leafy sanatorium scenery with the somewhat suggestive quote of "I'm expecting you" printed above her head.

Germans constitute the majority of foreign clients. But Scandinavians, the Dutch, Danes and even Americans are drawn to these health farms.

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