Tuesday, 9 April 2019

High Expectations from Summit with China

ZAGREB, April 9, 2019 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić on Tuesday said that the 16 + 1 summit with China is a big event for Croatia and that he hopes for concrete positive effects from the summit, and Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević too, expects positive results.

The 16 + 1 summit is a big event for Croatia, Marić told reporters ahead of an inner cabinet meeting. He added that he believes that there will be positive effects after the summit.

Asked whether he shares the opinion that the 16 + 1 summit is being held so that China can enter the EU market as deeply as possible, Marić said that the 16 + 1 initiative is nothing new. He said that thanks to the fact that it is hosting the summit, Croatia will probably be a world media star over the next few days and that the summit is confirmation that the government is focusing on economic issues.

Asked whether Western EU countries were opposed to Chinese investments, Marić said that several Western countries cooperate very well with China and so he did not see any reason why Croatia should be any different.

"We are a constituent part and member of the EU, which does not exclude us from cooperating with any partner with whom we can build economic ties on the principles that are valid also for the EU," he said.

Minister Kuščević believes that China is a large market and that it can be a big investor in Croatia. He expects certain investments in Croatia's railways and ports to be agreed. "I know that the Chinese are interested in investing in railroads, ports and certain infrastructure and energy projects, so I believe that something concrete will occur," Kuščević said.

President of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) Luka Burilović on Tuesday said that the meeting of heads of governments of China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries (16+1) and the business forum that will be held during the summit is the biggest opportunity yet for cooperation with China and the greatest opportunity to increase exports and for new investments.

The 8th 16+1 summit will be held in Dubrovnik on April 11 and 12.

HGK, in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts is organising the 9th China-CEE, Business Forum on the margins of the summit. "This is the greatest opportunity ever to increase exports and for new investment cycles," Burilović said and added that greater affinity by Chinese consumers for our products can be expected as a result.

"It is essential to resolve the issue of certificates and export licences for our entrepreneurs. HGK is intensively working on standardising those procedures in cooperation with the relevant institutions in the two countries, and we believe that the dairy industry is just the beginning," Burilović said.

Croatia will sign nine bilateral agreements in Dubrovnik, HGK noted, and one of those will be between the Agriculture Ministry and the Chinese General Administration of Customs which will enable milk and dairy product exports.

The Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR) and the Chinese Development Bank will also sign an agreement that will facilitate access to Chinese capital for Croatian development projects.

"Chinese investments on the global scene have until now been directed mainly in infrastructure and resources, but that is changing," Burilović said, adding that the Chinese are turning to greenfield investments in production with quality jobs. "That is why we have equal room for investments and for exporting quality products, but also to strengthen cooperation directed at companies that are already present in China," he added.

It is expected that more than 100 companies will attend the business forum and individual meetings will be held between Chinese and European companies.

HGK said that the advancement of economic cooperation between Croatia and China would be most likely in the area of transport and distribution of commodities. Chinese companies can use the opportunities provided by the Ploče, Zadar and Rijeka seaports.

Croatian tourist agencies are also showing a growing interest in China as well as promoting Croatia as a tourist destination in China.

Statistics show that trade between Croatia and China in 2018 amounted to 1.1 billion dollars and that it increased by 200 million dollars compared to 2017.

More news about relations between China and Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 5 April 2019

16+1 Format Boosts Croatia-China Relations

ZAGREB, April 5, 2019 - Croatia-China relations have intensified in recent years, notably through the 16+1 format in which the heads of state or government of Central and Eastern European Counties (CEEC) and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang will meet in Dubrovnik on 11 and 12 April.

In the past two and a half years, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and his Chinese counterpart have held five meetings, which Plenković says shows that the 16+1 format facilitates the efforts of small European countries to develop relations with the 1.3 billion-strong economy.

"This format gives an opportunity to countries of our size to build relations with China, which has opened up to the world and has shifted its focus from exports. It now wants to import, buy our products and services," Plenković said recently at the EU summit in Brussels.

China considers the 16+1 initiative to be part of its mega project "One Belt, One Road", which is viewed as the 21st century Silk Road initiative and one of the most ambitious projects in the world. The idea of a cooperation platform between China and the 16 CEEC countries emerged after their first business forum in Budapest in 2011.

The 16 countries are: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Serbia. There are six observers: Austria, Belarus, Greece, Switzerland, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Foreign Affairs Service.

The eighth edition of the summit meeting of China and 16 Central and East European Countries, which the Croatian government describes as the biggest foreign affairs conference on Croatia's soil, is scheduled for 11-12 April in Dubrovnik. Seven years have passed since the first summit in Warsaw in 2012 and subsequent summits were held in Bucharest, Belgrade, China, Riga and Budapest. The Sofia summit, organised in 2018, was the seventh.

Responding to comments that Brussels is not enthusiastic about the 16+1 initiative, Premier Li has underscored on several occasions that this initiative is not a geopolitical platform and that it is open to other countries and institutions as partners.

Croatia has emphasised the fact that it is developing its relations with China on three pillars: bilaterally, through the EU-China dialogue and within the 16+1 format.

The Dubrovnik summit includes two of these three dimensions: bilateral and multilateral.

The Chinese premier is coming to Zagreb after the EU-China summit in Brussels on 9 April. The 21st summit will be co-hosted by European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The Chinese-EU trade amounts to over a billion euros daily. Europe is China's largest trading partner and China is the second biggest market for European exports, after the United States.

Li, who is expected in Zagreb on Tuesday evening, will be accompanied by a 250-strong delegation. In addition, 300 Chinese business people are arriving for the economic forum in Dubrovnik. The event will be covered by about 70 Chinese reporters.

On 10 April, Li is due to meet with Prime Minister Plenković and other senior Croatian officials, including President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic. That evening, an exhibition on scholars of ancient China is to open in Zagreb's Klovićevi Dvori Gallery, ushering in a year of Chinese-Croatian cultural and tourism cooperation.

When it comes to the tourist trade, Croatia has recorded two-digit rises in arrivals of Chinese tourists. In the first three months of this year, the number of Chinese arrivals increased by 45% and they generated 59% more bed nights.

In 2016, 100,000 Chinese tourists visited Croatia, as many as 234,000 Chinese tourists were registered in 2018, while over 300,000 are expected this year.

On 23 April 2018, the Croatian road operator HC and the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) signed an agreement on the construction of Pelješac Bridge and access roads, worth 2.08 billion kuna (281 million euro) excluding VAT. The bridge, 2.4 kilometres long and 55 metres high, should be built in 36 months and its construction started last July.

Pelješac Bridge will connect the Croatian mainland and Pelješac peninsula to bypass the 15-kilometre-long stretch of the coast at Neum where Bosnia and Herzegovina has access to the Adriatic Sea. The bridge will ensure connectivity between the Dubrovnik area and the rest of Croatia.

The Chinese premier, accompanied by his host Plenković, is expected to visit the construction site of the bridge on Thursday, 11 April. Last year, Plenković said that the agreement on the bridge construction had opened a new page in Croatia-China relations.

The Dubrovnik summit will be held under the slogan "Building new bridges through openness, innovation and partnership". The first part of the two-day event will be a business forum.

The summit will adopt guidelines for the work of the 16+1 format in 2020.

In 2018, Croatian exports to China totalled 133 million euro while Chinese exports to Croatia exceeded 800 million euro.

More news about relations between Croatia and China can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Why Aren't There More Chinese Tourists Coming to Croatia?

Croatian tourism has everything that Chinese tourists are looking for, ranging from cultural, historical and natural heritage to autochthonous, rich gastronomy, folklore and festivals. More of them are expected to come this year, although problems with the visa regime and the lack of direct flights and guides in the Chinese language do exist, reports Večernji List on March 15, 2019.

This was highlighted at the first regional conference on the Chinese tourism market, sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism and organised by the Zagreb-based consulting company ProConcept and the Singapore-based marketing agency IPPWorld. It brought together local and regional tourist agencies and other professionals working or willing to work with the Chinese market.

"In Croatia, not enough people understand that the Chinese are now the number one nation in the world according to tourist spending. They are not tourists who just like to take a walk or who are looking for low prices and have little to spend. Just the opposite; they spent globally around 300 billion euro last year, and this figure is growing every year, as the standard of living increases, just like the number of Chinese people who have a passport and want to travel also increases,” said ProConcept director Andreja Gazdek.

By 2018, only about six per cent of Chinese citizens had a passport, which means approximately 80 million, and it is expected that by 2020 around 200 million people will have a passport. There are 36 countries in the world which the Chinese can enter without a visa, including Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, while in 44 countries a visa can be issued at the border crossings.

"Croatia is not one of these countries. Visas are required which is quite a hindrance,” said Gazdek, who said it was unbelievable that, according to unofficial information, there is only one person at the Croatian embassy in China dealing with visas. "It all takes a long time. Why can’t we hire more people there, so that visas are issued faster?” Gazdek asked.

She added that in the region of Southeast Europe, the Chinese are coming to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and other countries more than to Croatia, mainly because these countries have introduced direct flights. For example, Graz in Austria has such a link, Gazdek said and asked why Zagreb does not have it.

In 2011, there were 11 million travels from China, while in 2018 the number reached more than 160 million. Half of these trips were to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, and the rest to other countries, mostly to Europe. One of the problems why so few Chinese tourists are coming to Croatia is the lack of Chinese-language brochures, guides, and menus.

Consultant and tourist agent Ivan Pukšar also believes that Croatia needs to increase its visibility and promotion in the market, while Joanne Chan of IPPWorld said it is imperative to promote Croatia on Chinese social networks, such as WeChat, Weibo and Baidu, which are Chinese equivalents of Facebook and Instagram, which are rarely used in China. Chan believes that all tourist service providers in Croatia should take a more proactive attitude towards Chinese tourists, and Chinese-language mobile apps would also come in handy.

Siniša Malus from the China and South-East Europe Business Association believes that Croatia can expect a significant increase in the number of Chinese tourist arrivals this year, as well as in the coming years, with the new momentum of friendly diplomatic ties between the two countries. "Tourism and overall economic co-operation with the Chinese market are also growing, and the opening of the Croatian National Tourist Board and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce offices in Shanghai is also beneficial. All this is gaining momentum with the arrival of Chinese investors not just for the construction of Pelješac Bridge, but also for other projects such as the construction of hotels in Krapina and Zadar,” said Malus, adding that the 16 + 1 Summit in April in Dubrovnik will also be beneficial, since it will include representatives of many large Chinese businesses.

Translated from Večernji List.

More news about relations between Croatia and China can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Chinese Businesswoman Launches Slavonian-Dalmatian Winemaking Project

A visit to the En Primeur young wine festival, held on January 31 at the Westin Zagreb Hotel, was an excellent opportunity to taste young wines and get acquainted with the latest developments on the Croatian wine scene. The event was dominated by Slavonian winemakers gathered by the Graševina Croatica association, and it also brought together winemakers from Međimurje and Dalmatia. I was pleasantly surprised by the news that a businesswoman from China has bought a vineyard in Kutjevo and launched her own Slavonian-Dalmatian winemaking project.

Qin Hellner was born in Beijing and has a degree in international business from Shanghai Maritime University. For about a decade, she worked for COSCO – the largest Chinese state-owned shipping company. In the mid-1990s, she moved to Melbourne where she ran a private brokerage firm.

With her former husband, a German, she decided to move to Europe in 2012 to provide their children with European education. Her son was enrolled at a German boarding school, but Germany was not the place where Qin wanted to live. They were looking for a pleasant place to live, and in Melbourne, she met the Croatian Consul General Antun Babić, who told her about how Croatia is a great country for a living.

Without much thought, she accepted the consul's invitation and visited Croatia. Since Mr Babić is a Slavonian, they first visited Kutjevo and the Golden Valley, met the famous winemakers Vlado Krauthaker and Ivo Enjingi, and then went to the Croatian coast.

“Although the visit was short, we immediately fell in love with Croatia and decided to stay here. We moved to Zagreb and decided to invest in a business in Croatia, but we soon realised that it was not easy to do it because of all the bureaucratic complications in Croatia. Of course, we did not give up, and we soon bought a vineyard in Kutjevo because we were impressed by the people we met there during our first visit to Croatia, with their culture and hospitality. We fell in love with the Goldey Valley landscapes that reminded us of the 150-hectare farm we owned in Australia.”

Initially, she did not intend to produce her wine but primarily enjoy the rural landscapes. They sold their grapes to others to financially cover the upkeep of their vineyard and make a small profit.

After the divorce from her husband, Qin could choose between the vineyard in Kutjevo and the yacht, and she naturally opted for the vineyard. Last year, due to the abundant grape harvest in the Golden Valley, she could not find buyers for her grapes. She turned a problem into an opportunity and decided to produce her wine, helped by winemaker Antun Plančić from Hvar. She was introduced to Plančić by a business partner with whom she is building a tourist complex near Zagvozd. “If everything turns out fine, we will offer packages to our guests in Zagvozd which will include a visit to the Golden Valley and our vineyard, which also includes a holiday home. Of course, we will also offer boat trips to the Dalmatian islands, especially to the Plančić winery on Hvar where our wines are finalised.”

The vineyard covers two hectares, and Graševina covers 80% of it. Qin's focus is on quality, and she plans to produce between 10,000 and 12,000 litres of wine annually.

“Since my main job was international trade, I used to travel a lot. I am now in active retirement, so I have enough time to travel for fun. If I notice a good business project, then my trip is more than just having a good time. My lifestyle is no longer as intense as it used to be, but it is very relaxing. My biggest passion is food and these days I travel to enjoy different cultures and their gastronomy. "

Qin says Croatia is a beautiful country with wonderful people, full of energy and entertainment, but it is complicated to follow Croatian legal and regulatory frameworks. "That is why I do not want to go into too large investments here. And if by any chance I do not succeed in business ventures here, at least I will own great properties and have good wine to enjoy with my friends. That is enough for me! "

Given the positive energy she radiates, I believe that Qin will succeed in spite of all the administrative obstacles faced by investors in Croatia. Her example will be a pointer to others who can see that tourism potential in Croatia is not limited just to the Adriatic coast.

More news on Croatian wines can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Direct Flights to Beijing Moving from Belgrade to Zagreb?

Croatian Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure Oleg Butković met in Beijing with Chinese Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng. According to information from the ministry, the two officials discussed the co-operation between the two countries in the area of transport, including the possibility of introducing direct flights to Beijing from Croatia, reports Večernji List on January 22, 2019.

Butković informed Xiaopeng with projects currently being implemented by Croatia. The meeting highlighted the importance of the arrival of the Chinese cargo to the port of Rijeka. Another topic which was discussed was the introduction of flights to Beijing from Zagreb.

The topic of direct flights between China and Croatia has been discussed for a long time. China's ambassador to Croatia, Hu Zhaoming, has already spoken about the need for their introduction, and the topic again came to the forefront after a Chinese consortium won the tender to build the Pelješac Bridge.

Hainan Airlines is often mentioned as an airline that would introduce the flights. That would be the only direct link between China and the wider region. Until the end of last year, Hainan had twice a week flights from Beijing to Belgrade, but after a little more than a year it discontinued them due to the low number of passengers. On the other hand, during the first ten months of last year, 216,000 Chinese tourists visited Croatia, which was 43 per cent more than in the same period of 2017.

The meeting with the Chinese Transport Minister was the first in a series of meetings that the delegation of the Croatian Ministry of Transport, led by Minister Oleg Butković, will hold in China, where he will stay on an official visit until 26 January.

The visit to China of the Croatian delegation comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Transport, Croatian Railways, Croatian Roads and the Rijeka Port Authority, is part of the process of intensifying relations between the two countries and preparations for the upcoming summit of 16 Eastern and Central European Countries and China (Initiative 16 + 1), which Croatia will host later this year.

The Ministry stated that Butković informed his Chinese counterpart about the geostrategic position of Croatia and projects in the area of railway infrastructure. Li Xiaopeng said that the Chinese side supported their companies in taking part in tenders and complying with Croatia's regulations. He also said that the cooperation of the two countries in the field of infrastructure was just starting, and will continue to deepen with projects which are part of the Belt and Road initiative and China + 16.

More news on the cooperation between Croatia and China can be found in the Business section.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Josip Bohutinski).

Monday, 21 January 2019

Croatian Transport Minister in China for Cooperation Talks

ZAGREB, January 21, 2019 - The Croatian Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, Oleg Butković, met with Chinese Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng in Beijing on Sunday for talks on cooperation in transport infrastructure, the possibility of Chinese companies using the northern Croatian Adriatic port of Rijeka and of opening direct flights between Zagreb and Beijing, the Croatian ministry said in a press release on Monday.

Butković cited the Pelješac Bridge as the most significant project that provided a boost to cooperation between Croatia and China. He emphasised Croatia's favourable geographic position and informed his Chinese counterpart of activities Croatia was undertaking, especially with regard to railway infrastructure in the Mediterranean corridor.

Li said that China was encouraging its companies to apply for tenders and to comply with deadlines and Croatian regulations. He pointed out that the two countries were fostering friendly relations and that Croatia was an important partner to China.

Cooperation in the area of infrastructure is only in its initial, but very good phase and will continue to deepen through the One Belt, One Road and China+16 initiatives, Li said.

The meeting with the Chinese transport minister was the first of several meetings the Croatian delegation will have during their official visit until January 26.

The Croatian delegation includes representatives of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, the HŽ Infrastruktura rail company, the Hrvatske Ceste road construction and maintenance company and the Rijeka port operator.

The visit marks the continuation of the process of intensifying relations between the two countries and preparations for this year's summit between China and 16 Eastern and Central European countries, which will be hosted by Croatia.

On Monday, Butković is scheduled meet with executives of the China Road and Bridge Corporation, which is building the Peljašac Bridge, and the China Communication Construction Company.

More news on the cooperation between Croatia and China can be found in the Business section.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Chinese Vice-Premier Visits Croatia, Meets with Plenković

ZAGREB, November 24, 2018 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Chinese Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan met in Zagreb on Friday and called for stronger economic cooperation between the two countries, notably for more Croatian exports to China and more Chinese investments in Croatia, a government press release said.

Plenković highlighted the importance of intensifying bilateral cooperation, which has gained momentum after the Chinese CRBC company was selected to build the Pelješac Bridge and after the recent opening of work on a wind farm near the northern coastal town of Senj, in which the Chinese company Norinco is investing 160 million euro, the biggest Chinese investment in Croatia.

Plenković and Sun also discussed preparations for a summit of China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries (China+16) which is due to take place in Dubrovnik next spring, shortly after the Chinese premier visits Croatia.

They called for stronger cooperation in the economy and trade, which has reached about a billion US dollars. In light of Plenković's recent visit to China to attend the country's first international import exposition in Shanghai, special emphasis was put on the further growth of Croatian exports to China and the growth of Chinese investments in Croatia.

Plenković and Sun welcomed the growing number of Chinese tourists visiting Croatia, which is expected to reach about 250,000 this year, and expressed their satisfaction with the pace of development of cooperation in education and healthcare following the signing of the programme for cooperation in education for 2018-2022 and the plan for cooperation in healthcare and medicine for 2018-2020.

The Chinese Vice-Premier also met with Croatia’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Marija Pejčinović-Burić, and she also attended an event celebrating Croatian-Chinese cooperation in the sports sector.

For more on the recent improvement of the Croatian-Chinese relations, which has reportedly caused some concern among those worried about China's growing influence in central and eastern Europe, click here.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Croatia and China Successfully Developing Cooperation in Sports

ZAGREB, November 23, 2018 - Sports cooperation between Croatia and China was presented in the Dražen Petrović Basketball Hall in Zagreb on Friday, and the event was attended by Chinese Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan.

Mrs Sun was accompanied by Cao Weidong, Chairman of the Beijing Sports University, the largest sports university in the world, and a Chinese government delegation. They watched a basketball match between Croatian and Chinese students, which kicked off the event.

Over a hundred Chinese children of all ages come to Croatia every year to attend Croatian sports programmes and train in sports in which Croatia is traditionally strong, such as football, handball, water polo and basketball.

"I have come to visit young Chinese athletes in Croatia to see how they are doing in their education and training in a country that takes pride in its incredible sporting successes. In Croatia, they will learn a lot about sports technology and tactics in sports that are not so developed in China, such as handball and water polo. In the future, these young athletes will be a bridge of friendship between our countries, and they will make lots of friends in Croatia. I take this opportunity to invite young Croatian students and athletes to come to China," Sun said.

This project began ten years ago with the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Croatian and the Chinese Olympic Committee, and it includes exchanges of athletes, coaches, teachers and sports knowledge, project leader Damir Knjaz said.

"This cooperation is proof of the quality and expertise of the University of Zagreb and its Faculty of Kinesiology, which offers professional education and advanced training to Chinese students. The young Chinese will learn Croatian and become a bridge between Croatia and China, which will be a leading country in all areas within the next 20 years," said the head of the University of Zagreb, Damir Boras.

For more on the relations between Croatia and China, click here.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Chinese Company Begins Construction of Wind Farm in Croatia

ZAGREB, November 21, 2018 - Construction work on a wind farm inland from the northern Adriatic town of Senj began on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković saying that this 160 million euro project of a wind farm in Croatia was an excellent example of cooperation between Croatia and China.

The 156-MW wind farm, consisting of thirty-nine 4-MW turbines, will be built by the Chinese company Norinco International and will spread over 45 square kilometres. Construction should be completed in two years and the wind farm should be operating for 23 years. Estimated annual output is 530 million kWh.

Plenković said that this project opened a new chapter in relations between China and Croatia and delivered a strong message in terms of investment. He said that this investment would make a considerable contribution to the total share of renewable energy sources in electricity production in Croatia.

The prime minister expressed confidence that the project would be completed according to schedule and that some of the work would be performed by Croatian businesses and workers.

Plenković said that Croatia wanted to boost its cooperation with China, especially in infrastructure development. He said that Chinese participation in the upgrade of railway infrastructure, in which Croatia plans to invest 3 billion euro over the next 12 years, would be in Croatia's interest.

Plenković said that Croatian seaports could also be interesting to Chinese companies. Asked if this meant that a lowland railway between Rijeka and Zagreb could be built, he said that this was one of the options that would strengthen Croatia's position on Europe's infrastructure map.

Norinco International CEO Wang Yitong said that the project was supported by both the Croatian and the Chinese government. He recalled that the project agreement had been signed a year ago.

Late last year, Norinco International purchased a 76% stake in the Senj-based Energija Projekt company for 32 million euro, acquiring the rights to build and manage a wind farm near Senj.

For more on the cooperation between Croatia and China, click here.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Safe Croatia: Understanding Chinese Perceptions of Croatian Medical Tourism

A fascinating pilot survey in China by a New York university at the 6th Crikvenica International Health Tourism Conference on November 8, 2018 opens up an intriguing possibility for Croatian medical tourism. Small steps, but ones worth following up. 

The more I get involved in the Croatian medical tourism story, the more fascinated I become. And the more I become convinced that Croatian medical tourism is the single most important sector for Croatia to be investing its time and marketing in. With so many competitive advantages, as we have previously discussed, the only thing that is holding Croatia back from this potentially billion-dollar industry, is local cohesion, a brand and a strategy and roadmap of how to get to the next level.

Yesterday, we touched on the views of various international participants of the conference, which included 18 high-quality speakers, all experts and market leaders in their medical tourism fields. You can read that article here, an article with a Malaysian feel after Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council CEO Sherene Azli's eye-opening presentation on how Malaysia became the number one medical tourism destination in the world. We will publish an interview with Sherene shortly.

Although I knew that the Kvarner health cluster was the most progressive body in the emerging Croatian medical tourism industry, I will confess to being more than stunned at the quality of the speakers - both Croatian and international - as well as some of the very niche topics which were presented. Professor Christine A. Lai, from the State University of New York Buffalo State, for example, with a presentation entitled Understanding Chinese Perceptions Toward Croatian Medical Tourism.

Niche indeed... 

And fascinating. 

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The potential of the Chinese medical tourism market had already been touched upon during the Malaysian presentation, as Sherene pointed out some of the regional opportunities for Malaysia. With changes to China's infamous one-child policy, there are now apparently over 40 million Chinese women over 40 (as I understood it) interested in IVF treatment. If Malaysia could position itself as the regional leader in that industry, Malaysia's already booming health tourism industry would boom even more. But how could there be an opportunity for Croatian medical tourism with Chinese patients?

I sadly missed the opening of Professor Lai's presentation as I was interviewing Sherine, but as I understood things, Professor Lai's academic connections to China enabled a very limited modified Fishbein survey on perceptions of medical tourism destinations around the world. The sample size was small and very educated (young students), so there is no suggestion that this is a definitive study, but rather perhaps a seed worth planting to see if it could turn into something very solid indeed. As Professor Lai's slides showed, Croatia is being discovered by a greater number of Chinese each year. 

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South Korea, Germany, USA, Japan and Croatia were included in the study. The most important factor in the study for Chinese respondents? Safety. One of Croatia's strengths. Croatia, Full of Safe Places. Maybe time to make more of the branding of Ivan Vucetic from Hvar, the father of dactyloscopy...  

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So what are the attributes which are most important to this small educated Chinese sample? Scores above out of 5. Safety. 

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And from a medical tourism point of view? The requirements were understandably more stringent. 

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And then the big shock. Taking into consideration all the factors from safety to price in Japan, South Korea, Germany, USA and Croatia, there was only one clear winner - Croatia. And look how strongly Croatia performed on safety.  

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A summary of the scores. 

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It is too early to start building clinics in Zagreb and beyond for millions of incoming tourists to the Croatian medical tourism industry, but it is not too soon to start taking the findings of this very small sample and expanding it to see where this might lead. The perception of 'safe' in this increasingly troubled world, combined with strong medical reputation, great prices and a strong tourism offer, could well prove to be quite a bonanza for the Croatian medical tourism industry. 

The Croatian National Tourist Board opened an office in Shanghai last week.  One of the lessons from Malaysia which I will be looking at in my interview with Sherene Azli is the use of all Malaysian institutions to promote the medical tourism industry. The Malaysian Healthcare Tourism Council only has two offices abroad (from memory in Vietnam and Indonesia) - all the rest of the marketing is done through the network of offices of the Malaysian Tourist Board. 

Imagine the same happened in Shanghai. Croatia, the safe European destination full of tourism, but also a destination for high-quality, affordable medical tourism. 

Croatia could hit its goal of becoming a 12-month tourist destination quicker than planned if it plays its cards right. 

The time for a big push on Croatian medical tourism is now. 

To learn more about the Crikvenica International Health Tourism conference, click here

To follow the latest on the Croatian medical tourism industry on TCN, click here.

 

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