Now that the crowds have left the Karlovy Vary film festival, the wellness company Saunia can concentrate on completing the opening of its new operations in the Hotel Thermal. Typically, the company runs sauna centers in shopping malls. But it made an exception for the famous hotel after winning a tender to operate its pool and an additional multiuse building. The original goal of opening by August 14 wasn’t possible, but Saunia’s real estate director Pavel Ebr said it had opened in time for use during the film festival.
The timing of course was largely out of Saunia’s control, since it was the hotel’s owner (the Czech Ministry of Finance) and the general contractor Trigema Building that were in charge of construction work. What’s left is to take over the renovated restaurant and its new sauna center, which Ebr hopes will be opened to the public by the end of the year. The project is part of a total reconstruction of Hotel Thermal which included renovating all of the rooms.
But while it’s Saunia’s most prominent opening this year, it’s neither the first nor last. In early summer, the company made its Slovak debut in Bratislava Aupark despite Covid restrictions. And in roughly a month’s time Central Kladno will become the latest Czech shopping mall to add a Saunia to its leisure and wellness offering. This will be followed possibly by the end of the year by another in Avion Ostrava. Ebr’s focus is beginning to shift abroad, however, with initial negotiations having already taken part in Austria, southern Poland and German cities near the Czech border. He also visited Berlin in early August.
As the shockwave of pandemic spread, further opportunities could emerge domestically in the coming months. Ebr says that the lack of support from the Czech government are likely to result in a greater number of vacancies in malls here than in those in neighboring countries. And it’s not just empty units where Saunia could potentially move in. Ebr says that when retailers reduce the size of their stores, the space they leave behind could prove interesting. Saunia centers require little frontage but they can fill in unneeded sales areas or abandoned inventory space. “There could be opportunities to expand into interesting locations, not just into new shopping centers but also within the shopping center,” he says.
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