84. szám // 2021 Fürdőzők és turisták
Zalakaros fürdőjének első évtizedei
A Greenfield Project in Socialism: The First Decades of the Zalakaros Baths
The birth of the Zalakaros baths and their rapid rate of development, unparalleled in this sector in contemporary Hungary, were fostered by the unique constellation of a number of parallel factors. High-quality thermal water was discovered just outside the ill-situated settlement during carbon-fuel prospecting in 1962. On the one hand, the positive developments which had shot Hungarian water management to globally acclaimed standards in the 1960s helped the exploitation of this natural resource. On the other hand, the administrative overhaul of Zala County in 1950 meant that the county had not only lost a sizable chunk of its territory, but its touristic appeal was gone as well. Lastly, it has been recognized that due to the loss of attractions, neither the expanding and intensely subsidized domestic tourism of the 1960s, nor international tourism revitalized in the era of thawing politics could gain foothold in the county’s economy. For these reasons, the new progressive leadership of the town grasped every opportunity to exploit the new resource as fast as possible. The Zalakaros baths provided the only opportunity to give new impetus to tourism. Upon obtaining the titles of thermal bath, medical bath and, finally, of health resort in rapid succession, the speedy development brought about a change in status, as well as the appearance of year-round season-independent supplies, the continuous development of tourism infrastructure, and their complex effects on the settlement geography of the town. The clientele of the new health resort was completely restructured within the next twenty-five years. These changes brought a more central position for the settlement in municipal administration too, which eventually turned the tiny decaying village into a dynamically developing spa town.