Telensky sees himself as an environmental industrialist, who uses the
competitive edge that environmental technology can offer him to
harness natural energy, save costs and make his projects more
profitable. But he also likes to give back to the community, and
believes that ecological must also be affordable.
is one of rags to riches. Born in communist Czechoslovakia, Jan left
for England when he was 21 with no money and unable to speak English.
He seized his new opportunity and became a millionaire by the time he
was 29. When communism collapsed in 1989, Jan returned home and
expanded his operations into what was now Czech Republic and Slovakia.
His newest, and pioneering creation, with the support and
participation of the local municipality, is AquaCity
an affordable, luxury health spa that uses the geo-thermal energy of a
vast underground lake at Poprad, Slovakia. Nestled in the High Tatras,
one can go skiing, walking, mountain biking, golfing or touring
villages and castles and then return to AquaCity and relax in the warm
pools, enjoy good food, wine and friendly people. Lately he has also
set his sights on media and the Internet, with the creation of a pan-european
radio station. Media people: Hold Tight !
(The Interview follows:)
call yourself an "environmental industrialist", deservedly,
having, among other things, built a recycling plant, Slovakia's first,
and more recently a pioneering eco resort utilising geothermal energy.
Already on an illustrious international business career, what could
have attracted you back to the environment sector of Czech Republic
and Slovakia? Are there any other examples of progressive
industrialists like yourself in Eastern Europe in particular, and if
so what really drives them, profits or ideals?
I'm a man
with drive, energy and vision - a pioneer. I like to do something that
no one else has thought of doing. I like to innovate. If you have that
type of personality than the idea of working within a new emerging
country is exciting.
Velvet Revolution of 1989, Slovakia had to build a new country really
from scratch. I believed this new emerging economy had a unique
opportunity leap frog Western Europe in terms of innovation and the
what AquaCity does. It is the most environmentally friendly resort in
the world. It produces almost zero emissions. It uses the advanced
technology to utilise the geothermal energy. It allows us to deliver a
luxurious product at a very affordable price. That is why people
should look at environmental technology.
what is environmental business for you? Is it just about "meeting
the needs of the consumer" in a relatively eco friendly manner,
or do you believe, you could/should also try to change / educate the
people, your clients?
believe they are mutually exclusive. I follow the great philosophy
Seneca on teaching. He said, "When I tell you something you will
forget. When I show you something you will remember but when I involve
you in something you will understand."
had over 60 thousand visits in January and again in February. That is
over a 120 thousand people who have experienced the benefits of
environmental practices. They could come enjoy luxurious resort at
affordable prices because we use the energy of mother earth.- I think
that is a powerful message for using environmental technology.
early on in your illustrious career, you understood the growing value
of specialised professional & office training, and in particular
IT training. Recently you became a Governor at the University of
Economics and Business Studies in Prague, which you helped found in
2001. In today's increasingly competitive job market, do you see
specialised professional training as more or less relevant than broad
academic training, for youngsters, or are the two complementary? And
what about tourism education, how academic should that be?
in the former Czechoslovakia I was denied an education. I was destined
to be a bricklayer or locksmith. When I fled to England for political
reasons, it was the first time I had the opportunity to do what I
wanted. That is when education became important to me.
education as a tool. When I have a project I get the best people in
and I learn everything. It could be technical, design, legal, finance
it doesn't matter I am motivated to learn. I gain their knowledge and
take it to the next project and share with other people.
people learn differently. We have an economy that needs a variety of
skills. We need people to go to University to study law, engineering,
medicine. We also need skilled workers and unskilled workers. The same
is true for tourism. How academic does a tourism education need to be
- probably as much as any other industry. Tourism is a big industry it
needs educated people that understand world economics, consumer
behaviour, trends, resource management etc. Just as important it needs
skilled works and unskilled works for its success.
the most important thing people need to learn is English. It is the
universal business language. In the world economy, English is your
would think that you took a great risk by making such a large
investment in a touristically unproven and unknown area of central
Europe. Did sentimental reasons, or wishing to do something pioneering
for your country play a part? And please explain what is so eco and
unique about your project?
Tatras are not unproven, they are the Alps of the east. It was one of
Pope John Paul II most cherished areas. Central Europeans know the
Tatras well it is a busy area for skiing, hiking, mountain biking.
Slovakia has laws to protect the right to roam. It is a very popular
agree it is a place yet to be discovered by people outside Central
Europe. Later, this year Sky Europe will be flying directly from the
UK into Poprad. There will be another low cost airliner announcing
flights from the UK into Poprad in the next few weeks. Getting
affordable travel into Poprad is key. It will immediately bring more
tourism to the region.
about how I came up with the idea for AquaCity is one of luck. My wife
is from Poprad. One day we were walking and I tripped over a rusty
pipe and hurt my knee. So I asked about this pipe sticking out of the
ground. - That is how I found out about the geo-thermal waters. I
immediately realised the potential and the ideas started rushing to
As I said
before I have a lot of energy, I built AquaCity because I knew it
would be a success. The resort sits under these stunning mountains,
Poprad itself is untouched and has incredible 13th century
architecture. It is environmentally friendly. There is a lot to do,
the people are nice and it is affordable. How could it not be a
the local city been actively & willingly involved in the project
from the start, and in what way? Or did you have to face obstacles
such as indifference, suspicion, jealousy, ignorance, or
miscommunication? In the end all seems to be well?
closely with the city of Proprad. They own 15% of the resort and will
also benefit from the geo-thermal energy. It has been a great
partnership and we are continuing to develop new plans for the area.
resort, when complete, will showcase many different ecosystems. Do you
approach this mainly from the leisure and entertainment aspect, or are
there any educational parameters for families and young children? And
what about that cryogenic chamber? Is it based on solid medical
I hope it
offers both entertainment and education. After all education can be
fun. The main purpose of the different areas is to offer variety to
our guests. However, the main attraction to AquaCity is the
outstanding nature that surrounds it. So, AquaCity needs to reflect
this key selling point and build on it.
has been used since the 1980s both in a medical and a sports
environment. It is used in sports training to improve performance. The
cold reduces inflammation so cryogenics helps with sports injuries and
illness such as rhumetoid arthritis to provide short term relieve.
There are early studies that it helps with depression.
firmly believes that eco holidays must be affordable for all, and not
just be for the elite. We were pleasantly surprised to note the very
reasonable prices in your, otherwise luxurious, resort. How do you
manage to keep costs down? Low energy costs, lower local wages, or
economies of scale by the large size of the resort? And how large is
large - do you plan to expand the resort or do you place some
ecological limits to growth?
very reasonable. It is because of the savings we get from geothermal
energy as well as wage and tax rates in Slovakia. We are completing
phrase I. On July 10th, the President of the Slovak Republic will open
our new children's paradise. It is this amazing pyramid of water
slides with a disco on top. It will keep the kids entertained for
hours! Phrase II will be done in 2006 and the total resort should
which will cover 35 acres and should be complete in 2008.
you targeting a preferred guest profile (couples, families,
pensioners) or is everyone welcome? Do you feel it is possible to
appeal to everyone if a resort is large enough?
We see a
variety of people being attracted to AquaCity. A resort needs a good
mix for example, families are tied to school breaks so you want groups
that will also come outside school holidays. In building the resort
we've considered many groups. We've made easy access and considered
mobility issues for senior clients and people with small children. We
offer variety. We have 10 different spas and 10 pools. We are the only
hotel in the world to have an Olympic swimming pool. So, yes I think
you can build a resort to accommodate different people. However, it
takes careful planning. You may need to create a space that can be a
crèche one week and a disco the next.
satisfied are you with the tourism and environmental policy in
Slovakia? What are the main problems and opportunities n these two
sectors for your country? Has EU entry been beneficial in those two
challenge is to get Slovakia known. People confuse it with Slovenia,
they aren't sure exactly where Slovakia is located or what to expect
of the country. There needs to be more people talking about the beauty
of Slovakia. The friendly, well educated people, the unspoilt towns
and the numerous medieval castles.
As I said
before Slovakia has an opportunity to really lead on environmental
issues. Slovakia had a unique opportunity as a new country emerging
from post communist era to decide how they wanted to mange the
environment. They had the opportunity to see poor policies implemented
by other countries particularly with regards to the environment. The
government was determined create policies that provided good
environmental management for the country.
have recently set up an innovative all-Europe radio station, also
based in Slovakia, that transmits on-line. What is your take on the
Internet, has it at all changed the way business is conducted, or just
taken it to another level? And does it really mean anything for
ordinary citizens - freedom of expression, communication, price comparison
even, globalisation of markets and ideas or is it one more addiction
Yes, RTI is
a pan European English speaking radio station. As I said before,
English is an important language and Europeans like to listen to
English speaking radio to practice their own English and for the
entertainment. RTI has transmitters in Poprad and Latvia. If you are
in the Baltics, Scandinavia, Germany can tune into rti at 1350AM. In
Slovakia you can tune into 94.2 fm. It is also available via satellite
and the internet on www.rti.fm.
Internet is a diverse medium. It can be used as a distribution method,
communication and entertainment medium. In business - it is a tool.
You need to see what role if any the Internet has in your business. I
have some business where it very useful others it is not.
As far as
for individuals I think it is a powerful medium. Product and
information is just a click away. However, people need skills to
disseminate the information and decide if what they are buying or
reading is from a trustworthy source.
it comes to protecting the environment, should people trust
non-profits, foundations and the like, or for-profits? What signs
convince you and what worry you in each case?
both have the opportunity to do great good for the environment and I
think both have the opportunity to become self-serving. However, I
think we need a collaborative effort from both ends of the industry.
We need for profit companies developing innovative products and we
need non-commercial view of the state of the environment. Whether
individual should trust one group or another is impossible to say. It
is more about whether they can trust specific organisations.
there anything else you would like to say to our readers, perhaps
about your future, surely and equally, exciting plans?
like to see a more integrated approach to the environment. We need to
move beyond doing something just because it is the right thing to do.
I use environmental technology because it gives me a business edge.
The reason why I know which technology is available is because I think
the environment is important and I keep up to date.
consumers will choose an environmental alternative if it meets the
needs and isn't a high cost premium. We also have to make environment
issues easier to understand and in simple language. We need to tell
people how an environmental option will benefit them. Lastly, we need
clear labelling and universal standards.
Thank you very much!
complete list of ECOCLUB Interviews here