Croatia as a Medical Tourism Destination: development and promotion strategies
With a sustained growth rate, Medical Tourism is becoming an increasingly relevant economic sector which has proven to spur quality and service improvements in the healthcare sector, with lasting benefits for those who live in these destinations. Moreover it allows to improve tourism flows in shoulder and low season, thus bringing economic benefits to the regions.
Croatian Government has acknowledged the importance of the sector and has since included it in the strategic programing of its tourism policy. In this interview, Gari Cappelli, Tourism Minister of the Republic of Croatia explains the approach which has allowed Croatia to become one of the leading Medical Tourism Destinations in the world.
What is the role and meaning of Health Tourism in economic and global strategies, especially in the development of tourism in Croatia.
“Health Tourism is a booming trend both in Croatia and worldwide, registering an unprecedented rapid growth: we are talking about a product that, at global level, grows between 15% and 20%, creating as a matter of fact about 115 billion euros of revenues every year. Moreover, elderly population growth is an increasing trend in many countries. Combined with an “healthy lifestyle” trend and increased attention to prevention this suggests that, medical tourism will be one of the most compelling reasons to travel in the near future. As far as Croatia is concerned, Health tourism is widely recognised as one of the key products for the development of tourism in general, and this has been defined by our tourism development strategy which goes to 2020. Health tourism is a very relevant product for Croatia and it gives a competitive level and a boost to the development of tourism in eastern Croatia. Thanks to the awareness of the importance of Medical Tourism, two years ago an action plan for the development of Health tourism has been launched with specific directives and activities. Croatia is currently holding an investment potential of about 300 million euros for Medical Tourism with proper regulatory amendments that are being accomplished.. As far as Medical tourism is concerned, actual revenues are about 450 million euros and they could expand up to 1 billion by fulfilling the existing opportunities. Therefore, rather than intensifying the investments in Health tourism, starting from this year we are investing more on the promotion of Health tourism itself. Thanks to the cooperation with Croatian Chamber of Commerce and Croatian Tourism Board, we are working on a dedicated website for the promotion of best practices and initiatives in this field by gathering them under the motto “Croatia-Full of Health”. This project also includes the participation to fairs, congresses and meetings and it represents a significant step forward in the development and promotion of Health tourism. With this project we will increase the awareness on the topic and we will definitely lay the basis for its growth in the following years.”
How many Italian patients come to Croatia for Medical Tourism?
“Most part of foreign patients in Croatia has come from Italy for many years and according to data collected through our eVisitor system?, used to follow touristic flows trends, 1,1 million Italian tourists visited us in 2016, with a total result of 5,2 million stays. Even if our system cannot split the arrivals from abroad according to every single reason, we can say that our Italian guests represent the most significant numbers from abroad in our top known destinations like Opatija, Losinj island, Thermae of Krapina and Varazdin, where 3,5 milions stays were registered last year, out of which, 10% were Italian tourists.”
Which are the most requested therapies and the main destinations?
“In Croatia treatment centers, spas and wellness structures are predominant, and about 80 hotels offer several kinds of wellness packages and some of them are also providing very specialized services like stomatologic treatments. Croatia has a long tradition in physical therapy based on the use of natural medicine and our reputation is well known among both our local and foreign guests. As previously said, some of our most famous destinations in this field, with their own specific traditions, are Opatija, Losinj Island, Thermae of Krapina and Vara?din. But there are so many Croatian destinations that could develop their potential in Health tourism. Croatia, thanks to its closeness to major markets, its natural beauty and mild climate, the sense of safety, the ancient traditions, competitive prices and, more generally, good standing of health services, brings comparative advantages to the development of Health tourism, and I believe that in the coming years we may talk more about very interesting offers and even greater number of guests who will come to Croatia for reasons linked to Medical Tourism.”
What are the future objectives of Croatia as a Medical Tourism Destination?
“Our objective in the coming years is to turn Health tourism into a well-known international product. A product that will be recognizable most of all for its high quality and appealing wellness offer, for highly valued and advanced quality tourism services and for the growing competitiveness in medical services that is becoming more and more global. As I said, there are great potentials to be launched and our aim is to boost them for a further development of Health tourism in Croatia. One of the projects we started this year is the “CRO card” project, a tourist voucher that will be used to further encourage local tourism market. Of course it will be promoted through an intense communication activity that will help us showcase our offer at an international level, so that we will be able to achieve our objective.”
Croatia will be exhibiting at Intercare highlighting the medical offer of the Zagreb and Kvarner region.