Double delight as event marks Bath gaining rare second UNESCO World Heritage listing

September 9, 2021

Bath’s success in achieving a second UNESCO World Heritage listing has been celebrated at an event attended by civic and tourism industry leaders.

The city, along with 10 other historic spa towns, secured the much-coveted UNESCO World Heritage status in July as part of the ‘Great Spa Towns of Europe’ nomination. 

The achievement makes Bath the only UK city to appear twice on the World Heritage list, putting it alongside a select band of other European cities with a ‘double mention’, including Bruges and Barcelona.

It was also the only one of the Great Spa Towns to already have World Heritage status, having been classified in 1987, when it was included as a ‘cultural site’.

The event to mark the huge achievement was held earlier this week and included individuals from organisation across the city that supported its nomination.

Bath & North East Somerset Council leader Kevin Guy said: “I want to thank all our partners who worked together for many years to achieve this remarkable second listing.

“Gaining this status is not just about our remarkable history, it is about looking ahead and nurturing our unique heritage within a modern and vibrant city.”

Colin Skellett, who chairs the operating company behind the Thermae Bath Spa, said more than half of the visitors to the spa said it was their main reason for visiting the city, which boosted the local economy by almost £12m a year.

He added: “At the beginning of this millennium, Bath was restored as a spa city and this was vital in gaining UNESCO recognition.

“Civic leaders showed immense foresight in developing Thermae Bath Spa. The second listing is a great boost as we recover from the Covid pandemic and start welcoming back visitors who are so important to the economy of Bath and North East Somerset.”

The Great Spa Towns of Europe project focuses on historic spa towns, based around mineral springs, that have formed fashionable resorts of health, leisure and recreational ‘diversions’ such as gambling and dancing from the 18th to the early 20th centuries.

The towns were built in harmony with their natural therapeutic landscape settings to create unique urban forms. They were the pioneers of modern tourism and, although often small in size, they attracted guests who might otherwise only gather in larger cities. Only a few spa towns rose to great prominence and, of those, only a few remain in a good state of conservation.

The Great Spa Towns of Europe will now work together to market themselves across the world in terms of not just heritage, but also wellbeing and health tourism – a global market that is growing exponentially.

Alongside Bath, the spa towns included in the inscription are Baden bei Wien (Austria), Spa (Belgium), Vichy (France), Baden-Baden, Bad Ems and Bad Kissingen (Germany), Montecatini Terme (Italy), and Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně and Františkovy Lázně (Czech Republic). The Great Spa Towns of Europe nomination is a transnational, meaning that the 11 locations are seen as a single World Heritage Site.

Pictured at the celebration, from left: Great Spa Towns of Europe secretary general Paul Simons, chair of Thermae Bath Spa’s operating company Colin Skellett, Bath & North East Somerset Council chair Cllr Lisa O’Brien, Mayor of Bath Cllr June Player, council leader Kevin Guy, and City of Bath World Heritage site manager Tony Crouch



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