Greece, due to its geographical location and because of its geological structure, has a large number of mineral resources. Physical vents of hot and cold mineral water, vapor and regions with clay and peat next to lakes and rivers, in mountains, at beaches and plains, testify a rich aquatic thermal potential in different environments of Greek geographical space.
Many of these thermal springs over the years were associated with art, tradition, myths and beliefs of the local communities. Too many archeological monuments of ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires are located in, or next to Greek thermal springs and are used in the service of human physical and mental health. In Greece, the art of hydrotherapy has been practiced for more than 2500 years.
For the protection and development of thermal natural resources, it was founded in 1983 the Hellenic Association of Municipalities with Thermal Springs (H.A.M.T.S). Members at that time, were the municipalities of Thessaloniki, Alexandroupoli, Nigrita, Lagadas, Edipsos, Zaxaro, Kamena Vourla, Ypati, Souroti, Nea Appolonia, Agistro, Xino Nero, Tryfos, Milos, Platystomo. It was agreed that the H.A.M.T.S would have existence for ten years and the central offices were located at Kamena Vourla.
In 1985 the headquarters of the H.A.M.T.S were transferred in Thessaloniki.
In 1989 the H.A.M.T.S was considered by the Greek government as “an institution for elaborating and implementing development programs”.
In 1992 in order to provide technical and scientific support to its members, H.A.M.T.S founded the Greek Thermalism Company (ETHE) S.A; today’s Greek Thermalism Development Company (ANETH) S.A.
In 1993 it was decided by the state, the extension of the existence of H.A.M.T.S for fifty years and its objectives were defined as follows:
- Development and dissemination of thermalism and its applications.
- Creation of an Educational Centre of thermalism that would provide knowledge in fields like hydrotherapy, climatotherapy and clay therapy.
- Promotion of the scientific research for the protection, development and management of thermal natural resources and also for the creation of a modern legal framework.
- Provision of scientific and legal support to its members.
- Organization of workshops and conferences for thermalism and cooperation with international and national institutions with similar purposes.
- Promotion of H.A.M.T.S and spa tourism through conferences, workshops brochures, books etc.
- Creation of branches across the country.
In 1995 H.A.M.T.S was one of the leading members that established the European Spas Association-ESPA based in Brussels and was assigned the position of b Vice-President of ESPA.
Milestones in the history of the H.A.M.T.S were the following:
- The education of hundreds of scientists from various fields, in the use of geothermal water, through EU programs (ESF, SPA, FEDER, ADAP, etc) which resulted in the development and implementation of different research programs for its members. These programs were intended to produce studies for the development of thermal springs and specified how geothermal water can be used in baths, greenhouses, for heating of buildings, in aquaculture, for the capture of CO2 and the bottling of mineral water.
- The “1st International Conference for the geothermal water and the development of spa-resorts” (Thessaloniki 20-23/10/1985)
- The “2nd International Conference on geothermal water” (Thessaloniki 7-9/10/1988). The two conference‘s proceedings are still an important source of information for technical colleges and university students, as well as for anyone involved in environmental education.
- The “International Conference for the Greek Spa Tourism”(Loutraki-Kamena Vourla 26-29/6/1991)
- The “1st National Conference for Hydrotherapy” in collaboration with the Technical Education Institute of Lamia in May 1998 in Lamia.
- Workshops “Wellness spa tourism for a New Development Strategy” in collaboration with the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece in September 2013 in Athens
- Workshops co-organized by members of H.A.M.T.S and (ANETH) S.A in Mytilene, Alexandoupoli, Lamia, Preveza.
Over the years H.A.M.T.S has made very significant publications. The “Guide of Greek Spas” for example, is very popular and admittedly has a unique value. From 1995 till now improved editions of “Guide of Greek Spas” have been reissued and sent to thousands of stakeholders all over Greece and abroad as well.
After the adoption of the law 3498/2006 “Development of Spa Tourism and other provisions”, H.A.M.T.S has incorporated to its technical program all those studies prescribed by the law for the “recognition-certification” of the thermal natural resources of the municipalities-members. Till now, several hydro geological studies and health reports have been conducted and delivered from H.A.M.T.S in collaboration with Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) and other independent scientists. It should be mentioned also, that H.A.M.T.S is a member of the Committee for the Protection of the thermal springs of the Ministry of Tourism, which is responsible for the recognition-certification of them.
Today H.A.M.T.S consists of 53 municipalities-members with 71 thermal springs which are spread all over Greece. The board is composed by 74 representatives, elected according to the Law 3463/2006. It is the technical advisor of the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece (C.U.M.G), for the geothermal water and participates in the committees of Tourism and Health. It has also very close collaboration with the co-competent Ministries of Interior, Tourism, Health and Development on matters pertaining thermal natural resources.
The municipalities-members can, in any occasion, consult and use the scientific results of the Medical and Law groups of H.A.M.T.S. At their disposal are also, the results of surveys of scientists cooperated with H.A.M.T.S, for the quality, quantity and the social and economical characteristics of the visitors of the spa resorts. These surveys can be used by the municipality members as a base for the conduction of successful business plans or for their feasibility projects.
Significant efforts have been made and are planned for the forthcoming years, in order to communicate globally the quality of the Greek thermal springs. Participation in international exhibitions, conferences, forums, European networks and detailed editions are underway.