Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Lessons from Poland: How to Develop Medical Tourism in Central Europe

October 23, 2019 - Lessons from Poland, the latest opportunity for Croatia's medical tourism chiefs to learn best practices from another country, but is anyone listening? 

Sometimes the clearest lessons come from the most unlikely of places.


The 3rd Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Investment Forum concluded in Zagreb yesterday. It was a very stimulating event for me personally n terms of international contacts made, as well as being extremely well supported by some impressive international expert speakers, two Croatian government ministers, high-profile characters from the world of Croatian sport such as Davor Suker and Marin Cilic, and others. But the presentation which caught my eye and was the most important for those with an interest in developing medical tourism in Croatia came from a less celebrated source.

The medical tourism industry of Poland. 

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I am still learning about the global medical tourism industry and was not aware that Poland even had a significant medical tourism industry, let alone one which was allocated time to present at the conference, but from the moment I saw the first slide of Dr. Magdalena Rutkowska's presentation I was hooked. 

Poland Medical Tourism Programme. That had a nice, unified and national feel for a medical tourism brand. A little like the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council. And very unlike the way Croatia presents its medical tourism industry internationally. 

International trade fairs may come across the Kvarner Health Cluster, Losinj, the Island of Vitality, Zagreb, Bagatin Clinic (the most active Croatian clinic nationally and internationally), but Croatia Medical Tourism Programme? A concept almost unheard of. Such a simple and obvious step and one that Croatia has yet to master. 

But Poland had gone further than branding its industry on a national level, much further. Let's agree that Poland is not the number one medical tourism destination in the world, and its potential is less than Croatia's but in terms of what it is doing to realise its potential, it has a LOT of lessons for its Adriatic neighbour. 

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I almost feel stupid celebrating Poland's success, because all they have done is implement a common sense approach with determination, an approach which has not only brought tangible success, but at zero cost to the Polish taxpayer, and resulting in the approach being expanded and extended. 

A concept which could - and SHOULD - so easily be taking place in Croatia, the country which has medical tourism at the heart of its 7-year tourism strategy of 2013, but which has yet to deliver anything concrete. Simply following Poland's example would be an excellent way to start, and I found Magdalena after her presentation to learn more. 

The 3-year medical promotional project worth 5 million euro of EU money between 2012 and 2015 had its origins back in 2010 when some of Poland's private clinics started to lobby the government to do more to promote the medical tourism industry. After concerted pressure, the Polish government decided to include medical tourism in 15 sector tenders. Magdalena Rutkowska and her team stepped forward and Medical Travel Partner Poland became the implementing agency of the project. Initial target countries were Denmark,Germany, Norway, Sweden, UK, USA and Russia. 

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Brand Poland went on tour.  

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And Brand Poland played host, as well as capacity building and strengthening the brand with the participating stakeholders.  

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Some 40 clinics took part in the first phase of the project, investing their money in the joint promotion of Poland's brand as a medical tourism destination. Some 75% of their investment costs were reimbursed from the EU.  

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The project included feedback from the medical tourists who came to Poland during that period.  

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And there were some initial results for which Poland can be proud.  

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The numbers may be small for now, but the foundations being built are very solid.  You can learn more about the results of the initial phase here.

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After the first 3-year phase, the project continued. Additional target countries were added, as the EU wanted Poland to look at attracting tourists from non-EU countries. 

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Interest from clinics was strong, with some 176 interested in participating, a significant increase from the initial 40.  

While progress has been made, there is still plenty to do, of course. As part of its ongoing quality control, mystery shoppers tasted the response rate to enquiries from the participating clinics - there was no reply from 48 of them. So clearly some work to be done - train these clinics to be appropriately responsive or exclude them from the project. 

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Small steps, but concrete ones, and an emerging national brand, with a clear vision of the future direction.  

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And after the initial success, more official interest and partnership, with the second phase under the umbrella of the Polish Tourism Organization. 

The timeframe from project concept and submission to approval and commencing - just six months, although it should be noted that the money took longer to arrive and so many projects were initially financed by Poland and then reimbursed by the EU. 

Could it happen in Croatia?

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Poland's journey is a process of learning and trial and error. There were some expectations which failed to materialise, whereas other unexpected market opportunities arose. They had high expectations of the rich Polish diaspora in places such as the United States, but this has so far failed to provide a lucrative source of clients. On the other hand, simply by being present at international trade fairs and networking, new markets in former Soviet replublics such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have materialised. 

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For many participants, I am sure that this Polish presentation will not rank as one of the top moments of what was an excellent conference, but for me it was the most useful lesson of all for those with a genuine interest in moving Croatian medical tourism forward to the level it should be at to realise its considerable potential.

And then, a rare moment later in the conference - questions to the panelists allowed from the floor, something that happens all too rarely. I decided to raise my hand, firstly to congratulate Magdalena on an excellent presentation, and then to address my question to fellow panelist, Robert Pende, Croatian Assistant Minister of Tourism. 

"Assistant Minister, I have lived in your country for 17 years now and have heard one word more than any other when talking about developing Croatia's future - potential. Croatian tourism has so much potential, the medical tourism industry has so much potential etc. Medical tourism has been at the heart of your 2013 - 2020 medical tourism strategy for almost 7 years now. Putting the word 'potential' aside for a moment, and having listened to the excellent and very concrete example from Poland, can you give us any similar concrete examples of projects undertaken in that time, and what were the results?"

I will leave you to guess the response.


To learn more about the forum organisers, including their other initiatives to develop medical tourism in the Adriatic, visit the Medical Group Ltd website

Learn more about Polish medical tourism in the video below, and to follow the latest from the Croatian medical tourism journey, follow the dedicated TCN section

Monday, 21 October 2019

Investment Ops Presented at Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Forum in Zagreb

October 21, 2019 - The 3rd Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Investment Forum kicked off at Hotel Westin in Zagreb with a very high-profile audience on Day 1. 

As renowned medical tourism speaker Dr. Prem Jagyasi put it as he moderated one of the panels on the first day of the Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Investment Forum in Zagreb:

"I have been to 65 countries and spoken at countless health tourism conferences, but this is the only one which combines health tourism with investment. That is what makes it unique."

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It seems that Dr.Prem, one of a number of highly respected international medical tourism speakers at the event, was not alone. The turnout of local dignitaries was no less impressive. Both Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli and Minister of Health Milan Kujundzic gave introductory speeches, and there was representation from no less than 16 foreign embassies in Zagreb. 


Some of the top names in Croatian medical tourism were also on the speaker list, including Vlasta Brozicevic, the industry pioneer behind Teme Selce, pictured here with Dr Prem, TCN and conference organiser, Dr Miljenko Bura. 

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Two things which sets this conference apart from other medical tourism conferences in Croatia is that focus on investment, as well as examples of best practices and experiences from other countries in the region. Magdalena Rutkowska's presentation on the success of Medical Tourism Partner Poland's success in using EU funds in developing Poland's medical tourism story resonated strongly, as Croatia looks to take advantage of its own considerable medical tourism potential.

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And there were presentations of concrete projects either in the planning stages or ready for investors.  Among them, Jeff Blackard's 500-million-euro Pasman Rivijera project on the island of Pasman, which will transform wellness tourism in Croatia if it is realised. 

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There were plenty of other concrete projects ready to go and looking for investors, such as this one on Pag. 


But the main investment focus was on the city of Sibenik, the main sponsor of the forum, and Sibenik Mayor Zeljko Buric, another high-profile speaker, who gave an intelligent and eloquent overview of the investment opportunities for his city. 


The 3rd Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Investment Forum concludes tomorrow with another day of presentations, panels and workshops. Keeping in tune with the high-level interest so far, among the speakers will be Croatian sporting legends Davor Suker and Marin Cilic. 

To learn more about the forum, click here

To learn more about the organisers, including their other initiatives to develop medical tourism in the Adriatic, visit the Medical Group Ltd website


To follow the latest from the Croatian medical tourism industry, follow the dedicated TCN section

Monday, 14 October 2019

German Medical Wellness Association President Lutz Lungwitz on Croatian Health Tourism

October 14, 2019 - The 3rd Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Forum gets underway in Zagreb next week with a rich field of international speakers, including Lutz Lungwitz, President of the German Medical Wellness Association. TCN caught up with Lungwitz ahead of the conference. 

The story of the excellence of Croatian medical tourism is slowly making its way into international channels. One key channel to connect the international medical tourism community to the opportunities within Croatia is the Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Forum, which will meet for the third year at the Westin in Zagreb on October 21-22, an event which TCN will be attending. As with previous years, this year's event has brought together some of the leading figures in the world of medical tourism, and TCN managed to catch up with one of the key speakers recently, Lutz Lungwitz. 

Lutz Lungwitz has been President of the German Medical Wellness Association ( and of the International Medical Wellness Association, both based in Berlin, since 2004. He was kind enough to find time in his busy schedule to answer a few questions about the forum and Croatian health tourism in general. 

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1. You are a regular speaker on the Croatian medical tourism circuit. Tell us about the Adriatic Health, Sport and Investment Forum - what makes it a little different than the rest?
The first two Adriatic Health and Tourism Investment Forum in 2017 and 2018 showed us very clearly, how important it is to initiate new tourism projects in the field of health and medical wellness and to discuss as one of the main points investment opportunities at the same time. This is the main and important difference to some other, although very nice, conferences in Croatia for the development of health tourism. We have to discuss about financing strategies; without a budget all of us will lose and the dream of development in health tourism is just a dream.
In addition, the high professionality of Dr. Bura and his team, his warm-heartedness and his great hospitality plays a very important role to come to Zagreb for the forum. Dr.Miljenko Bura helps considerably with this conference, and he has created a feeling that we are a great "family" for the development of various health tourism projects. It is fascinating how good Dr. Bura's network is for all of us.  I get a lot of input from him and believe me, the conference is on a very high level, including speakers, translators and program.
2. A lot is written about wellness tourism in this region. Slovenia seems to have developed this sector well, with 40% of all overnights related to wellness, while it barely figures as a sector in Croatia, despite a proud history and large potential. Why do you think that is, and what are the main areas we should be focusing on?
In the field of health and wellness tourism, I don’t like to speak about the word competitors, I like more partners. The market is big enough and we will continue to rise in the future due to the age pyramid in Europe. The target groups and the respective country structure are different. I think Croatia should develop a modern young health tourism, that will especially contribute to the extension of the season on the coast, making the hinterland more famous and meaningful as a destination, as well as the capital Zagreb. Croatia can benefit from the numerous inputs from Slovenia. In Central Europe, the target markets are  Vienna, Munich, Zagreb, Bratislava, but although Berlin if you look to the time schedules of the possible flights. If you look although to the flight schedules at Zagreb airport, you will find a lot of international flights, more than nice for the development of health tourism. However, the potential can only be achieved, if the service and the quality of the offers are correct. The importance of Croatian seaside resorts, for many decades, should be pointed out in a modern way. This history confirms wellness and health holidays in Croatia and is not artificial.

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3. You are actively watching the Croatian medical tourism industry, and many experts say it has the potential to be in the top 10 in the world. Do you agree with that assessment? What is the potential of the industry in Croatia and what should the key focus of the stakeholders be to develop that industry?
Personally, the potential for the further development of medical and health tourism to Croatia seems very, very high. Croatia has a unique nature, both with the Adriatic, as well as the hinterland. Croatia is easy to reach and Croatian hospitality is world-famous. It is always hard for me to speak of a ranking, because it is not clear which scale is used. What is certain, however, is that Croatia has the potential to become a major and leading country for the promotion of health and therefore health tourism. For health tourism I feel, that Croatia can be a big player in the field of dental and rehabilitation tourism. For surgeries, the main important point is in my view, to get international accreditations, to show the customer the high level of medical solutions in your country. In my mind at the end of all will be good customer care and tourist program.
4. Germans have been an important source of tourists of Croatian tourism in general for decades now, and many Germans indulge in wellness tourism. Is Croatia even on their radar for wellness tourism, and what should be the focus to make it so if not?
Germany and so the German tourist are certainly one of the important source markets for the development if tourism to Croatia. Like other nations, the German guests travel directly to the Adriatic Sea in the summer months. The term wellness is not immediately associated with Croatia until now, which is certainly wrong. I think we should make a joint effort to all of our partners, also with the involvement of the German Medical Association and its brands: "The Leading Medical Wellness Hotels & Resorts" and "The Leading Medical Clinics & Spa"  to present a new image to the public. So you have, as one example, in Rijeka, Opatjia or in Sveti Martin, very nice Thermal Resorts. Croatia is much more, as we currently offer only beach holidays in the summer!  Important is the development of an umbrella budget to be used together, because for one hotel or resort it costs too much money to be present in the German or international market alone. Through targeted spa services, the hotels can generate good sales in the off-season. What could be better to enjoy having a massage or similar in the colder winter months by the sea or in the hinterland, with a view of nature or the sea, or just spend time together in Croatia? Croatia could be a very nice wellness and health-tourism country.

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5. What would you say are the key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for Croatian medical tourism?
Croatia should clearly show its uniqueness and the very good care of the guests and patients, the Croatian hospitality and the Croatian specialties, such as wine and prsut in the foreground, as well as its excellent locations such as the coast, the capital Zagreb and the hinterland - places such as  Sveti Martin. It’s important to constantly reflect on oneself, evaluate and set new impulses. Likewise, the international market must be constantly monitored. Croatia's neighbors can become tough competitors. The goal, however, cannot be to reach patient groups, with low prices and the result is the poor quality. One positive opportunity for Croatia in this way, is that it is a small country, so I hope that all stakeholders will work on a ground level together. It gives the chance to meet everybody regularly and can show how important the market is. It starts from the government and will include hotels, resorts, clinics and spas. For the customer it’s important to have a very friendly service and true photos and true facts from the promoting websites.
6. Improving infrastructure and developing projects are key themes of this conference. How attractive is Croatia to the German investment market, and what types of medical tourism investment projects do you think should be the focus? 
Croatia, as a "new" member of the European Union with high potential and secure laws,  is certainly interesting for investors. Although, as we all know, it’s generally very difficult to address investors or to win them on a short-term basis.  In my mind the main goal of medical tourism investment projects, is the developing of Medical Wellness hotels & resorts, with high comfort and with extraordinary treatments and rehabilitation Projects. Medical Wellness is the combination of conventional medical services, like: plastic surgery, dental, eyes, hair, beauty and cosmetics, alternative therapies and offers the relaxation in the traditional spa, as well as massage and sauna treatments, Thalasso-Therapies, Ayurveda, TCM, Kneipp-Treatments, Physiotherapeutic, Detox and more.
The future investment projects should be a mixture of the development of existing buildings and the development of new projects on a very high, modern and sustainable level for medical wellness. I hope that we can develop a common education system for hotels, resorts and clinics.
As a conclusion of this interview let’s say: “Let’s work together and develop Croatia as a Leading Medical Wellness, Wellness and Health Destination, with a high standard of Wellness, Medical Services and Rehabilitation Programs” for its own population and the guests from abroad.

For more details about the 3rd Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Forum in Zagreb on October 21-22, check out the full programme here


To learn more about the forum organisers, including their other initiatives to develop medical tourism in the Adriatic, visit the Medical Group Ltd website

To follow the latest in the Croatian medical tourism story, follow the dedicated TCN section

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Strengthening Medical Tourism Ties with Croatia: Dr Jeana Havidich Interview

October 9, 2019 - The recent ACAP Croatian diaspora conference in Cleveland included a medical tourism panel, the latest strengthening of medical tourism ties between international Croatians and the homeland. An interview with panelist Jeana Havidich, MD, PhD.

Dr. Jeana Havidich is a board-certified pediatric anesthesiologist at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth in Lebanon, New Hampshire.  She is a graduate of The Dartmouth Institute and her research focuses on outcomes and health care delivery science.   She is active in medical education and participates on national quality and safety initiatives.

1. You were a recent panelist on the medical tourism panel at the (Association of Croatian American Professionals) ACAP conference in Cleveland. How was the conference in general, and the panel in particular?

The conference was a great success. The enthusiasm generated was contagious and continues to grow.  The speakers were diverse, engaging and inspiring. The address by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic was a very special moment for all who attended.

I am very excited about the amount of interest and support the Medical Tourism Task force received during and after the conference. The moderators did a great job asking questions and engaging the audience.  It was great to have representatives from Croatia and the Croatian government inform the audience of current activities in Croatia.


2. As an American of Croatian heritage living in the States, give us a perspective of how Croatian medical tourism is perceived, especially in the diaspora? Is it coming onto people's radar? What are the key factors which will persuade the diaspora (and ultimately Americans) to travel to Croatia for medical treatment?

One of the panel’s biggest accomplishments was to inform the diaspora of the activities that are ongoing in Croatia relating to medical tourism.  I don’t believe medical tourism received much attention in the US until recently.  The concept of medical tourism is more popular in Europe but is gaining traction in other countries.  Although estimates are variable, the industry is expected to grow 10 – 25% over the next ten years.

The question regarding identifying key factors that will persuade the diaspora and Americans to travel to Croatia is very interesting. There are different reasons for different people.  Access and cost are two of the main reasons patients travel for health care.  The opportunity to receive high quality care at a lower cost is attractive to many patients.  For others, there may be services not offered locally or covered by insurance.  In the U.S., preventative care is typically not covered by most insurance and wellness vacations are becoming increasingly popular. Globalization has affected virtually all industries – and health care is no exception. 

3. You are involved in an interesting project, the OnSite Global consulting program, whereby MBA students at an Ivy League School will be coming to Croatia this fall to do a project to develop medical tourism in Croatia. Can you tell us a little about the project and how it came to be?

Almost three years ago, I met with the director of the global onsite consulting program to obtain her insight and advice. Since then, I kept her apprised of the progress the ACAP Taskforce has made.  She was impressed with our accomplishments and thought we were at a stage where her team could help. To determine the interest level in Croatia, Dr. Steven Pavletic and I met with leaders in the Croatian government and in the Medical Tourism industry in Croatia in May 2019.   We were excited they were willing to work with us on this project. I relayed this information to the consulting group, and we started planning our next steps.

We are fortunate to have the consultants involved. The global consulting program is quite competitive. In order to apply to this program, individuals must have a minimum of five years’ experience in consulting or international business.  We (ACAP MTTF) developed an Integrated Medical and Wellness program we believe will attract Americans and the diaspora.  Our key question is how to implement this program that will serve as a foundation to promote and further develop medical tourism in Croatia? Answering that question will require extensive research. In addition to their preparatory work, the team will spend three weeks in Croatia in December 2019– conducting research, interviewing key stakeholders and government officials – to answer that question.  They will present their findings in February 2020. 

(To learn more about this project and to donate - only 5 days left - click here.)

4. What are your hopes and expectations in terms of project outputs? Will this be an ongoing annual occurrence?

This project is time-limited. The consulting team will deliver a market analysis, propose a business plan and recommend next steps.  My hope is this will serve as a foundation for further growth and development of medical tourism in Croatia. We are looking forward to partnering with Croatians to develop medical tourism.  I am very excited to work on this project.  It will be intense but well worth it.

5. Strengthening ties and cooperation between Croatia and the USA can only be beneficial to Croatia's medical tourism industry. How much connection is there at present, and how do you see this developing?

The connection continues to grow stronger. In 2016, Dr. Halar and Dr. Pavletic inspired ACAP members to work with Croatia to develop and promote medical tourism.  In a short period of time, the Task Force has grown to over 140 individuals from all professions – physicians, business leaders, health care professionals, lawyers, and government officials – which makes us unique and talented organization. This diversification gives us strength.  Given the enthusiasm at our recent conference, I only see the connection growing.  

6. 'Potential' is a common word used when describing Croatia and its medical tourism industry. Several experts have said it has the potential to be in the top ten countries in the world in 10 years if its stakeholders come together. Do you share this view, and what are the important next steps to get to the next level?

Absolutely. Thoughtfully implemented, I believe Croatia has the potential to be in the top five destinations for medical tourism in the world.  Croatia possesses natural beauty, has a strong history of preventative medicine and wellness programs, and is one of the top tourists’ destinations in the world. The next steps depend on the type of programs offered, but stakeholders including government officials, leaders in the public and private health care sector, and supporting industries are needed to devise a strategy that will ensure Croatia’s success.  There are many parts to this puzzle, but I believe Croatia is well-positioned to be a leader in the industry.

7. There seems to be a great energy between ACAP and the business community in Croatia in recent months. Can you tell us a little about that?

It truly is inspiring and an honor to be part of this process and the ACAP organization.  ACAP is composed of volunteers whose mission is to promote Croatia and Croatian professionals.  The numerous hours of work willingly and enthusiastically ‘donated’ by members in this organization is incredible.  And it’s not just first-generation Americans, it’s second and sometimes third.   For me, this is an opportunity to give back to the Croatian community that supported me going to college. With that support, I was able to get accepted to medical school.  I have spoken to many others in ACAP with similar stories.

For the latest on the Croatian medical tourism story, follow the dedicated TCN section

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Full Programme for 3rd Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Forum in Zagreb Announced

October 9, 2019 - The 3rd edition of the Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Forum will be held at the Westin in Zagreb once more from October 20-22. 

The potential of Croatia's medical tourism industry will once more be in the spotlight later this month, as the 3rd Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Forum will take place at the 5-star Hotel Westin in Zagreb from October 20-22. 

Many international experts agree that Croatia has the potential to be in the top 10 countries in the world within ten years, and this year's forum has a quality lineup of Croatian and international speakers - and investors - who will be taking part in the 3-day event. Unlike many other health tourism conferences, the forum has a key focus on infrastructure and projects to support the growth of the wellness and health tourism expansion plans. None more so than the 500-million-euro planned resort on Pasman from American investor Jeff Blackard, who will be one of the keynote speakers. Event organiser Miljenko Bura MD had this to say by way of introduction of AHT:

"There are large-scale health tourism projects in the region that envisage great investments in the general and tourist infrastructure, products and services, and medical and tourist professionals in Croatia, Montenegro and other countries in the region, and their implementation requires huge funds which those countries do not have. Therefore we have launched the initiative seeking from the EC non-repayable funds to co-fund the investments, said Miljenko Bura of the Medical Group.

"Bura said that the potential for health tourism in Croatia and the rest of the Adriatic region was extremely large. It is authentic and has an unpolluted environment and sea which only few regions in the world can boast, he added."

The Forum gathers key people and projects in tourism and healthcare industry within Adriatic Region. The Forum is the right place for all visionaries and enthusiasts interested in how the health tourism in the Adriatic Region can reach the next level and become the full-time destination with quality contents from medical, wellness, touristic, rural and gastronomic segments.

The full programme is now available and can be viewed below - it promises to be an intense and productive 2.5 days, and TCN will be covering the event as a media sponsor. 



Preliminary final program covers thematic blocks that will be discussed in detail during the 3rd AHT Investment forum (October [20] 21 and 22, 2019.):

DAY ZERO Sunday, October 20, 2019

14:00-19:00 Workshops


Emin Cakmak, founder and honorary chairman, Global Healthcare Travel Council, Turkey

Dr Prem Jagyasi, founder, Dr Prem and Associates, founder, Dr Prem Web Magazine Network, India/UAE


Dr Prem Jagyasi, founder, Dr Prem and Associates; founder, Dr Prem Web Magazine Network, India/UAE


Dr Lutz Lungwitz, president, German Association of Medical Wellness, Germany

Dr Tomislav Majić, founder, Cardiac Rehabilitation Centre at Smarjeske Spa, Slovenia

Dr Mladen Golubić, medical director, Center for lifestyle medicine, Cleveland Clinic, USA 

19:00-21:00 Welcoming reception

DAY ONE Monday, October 21, 2019

08:00-09:00 Registration

09:00-09:30 Opening ceremony

09:30-10:00 Sponsor presentation


  • Adriatic region as a year-round riviera – a common project of the European Union?!
  • Health, sports and tourism infrastructure – a prerequisite for locals and visitors

Introductory lecture: A successful development of global healthcare and

tourism destinations – the Turkey experience Emin Cakmak, founder and chairman, Global Healthcare Travel Council, Turkey

Panelists: Gari Cappelli, Minister of Tourism, Croatia

Dr Vlasta Brozičević, Terme Selce, Croatia

Dr Jasmina Knežević, Belmedic, Serbia

Joe Bašić,

Magdalena Rutkowska, president, Medical Travel Partner, Poljska

Dr Miljenko Bura, initiator, AHT Forum; founder, Medical Group; medical tourism consultant, Croatia

Moderator: Dr Prem Jagyasi, founder, Dr Prem and Associates; founder, Dr Prem Web Magazine Network, India/UAE

11:40-12:00 Project presentations



Zdenko Lucić – State Secretary, Ministry of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts, Croatia - Representatives of the Adriatic region countries

Jeff Blackard, CEO, Blackard Global, USA

John Gašparac, Executive director, PWC Croatia

Hrvoje Stojić, Economic Research Director, Addiko Bank, Croatia

Marko Pažanin, Executive Director & Partner, Croatia Sotheby´s International Realty

13:30-14:30 Lunch


Panelists: EU representative

Croatian Ministry of Tourism representative

Luke Savage, Managing Director – International Acquisitions and Operations, Medical Properties Trust, USA

Emin Cakmak, founder and honorary chairman of Global Healthcare Travel Council, Turkey

Magdalena Rutkowska, president, Medical Travel Partner, Poland

Ivana Kolar, CEO and Founder, Julius Rose Business Consulting, Croatia, TBA

Dr Vladimir Mozetič, President, Kvarner Health Cluster, Croatia

Moderator: Lutz Lungwitz, President, German Association of Medical Wellness, Germany

16:00-16:45 Projects presentation


Introductory lecture: Smart Medical City

Marko Vukobratović, PhD, Barrage, Osijek, Croatia


Dr John Raffetto, CEO, Ambassador Care and American Adriatic Health LTC, Washington D.C., USA

Marino Šabijan, CEO, LUXHEAL, Zagreb, Croatia MedicalChain, London, UK, TBA Ericsson, Zagreb, Croatia

18:15-19:00 B2B networking

DAY TWO: Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Introductory lecture:

Dr Prem Jagyasi, founder, Dr Prem and Associates; founder, Dr Prem Web Magazine Network, India/UAE


Dr Miljenko Bura, initiator, AHT Forum; founder, Medical Group; medical tourism consultant, Croatia

Dr Lutz Lungwitz, president of the German Association of Medical Wellness, Germany

Rick Shands, TAHPI, London – Dubai – Sydney

Dr Steven Pavletić, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, USA

Dr Dražen Jurković, CEO, UPUZ, Croatia

Dr Milorad Gošev, CEO, Roche Pharmaceuticals Croatia, TBA


Luke Savage, Managing Director – International Acquisitions and Operations, Medical Properties Trust, USA

10:00-10:45 Projects presentation

10:45- 11:00 Break

11:00- 12:30 Panel: EU FUNDING IN NEW FINANCIAL PERSPECTIVE 2021.-2027.

  • Platform for the development of health tourism in the Adriatic region

Panelists: EU representative

Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds representative, Croatia

Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development representative, Croatia

Ministry of Health representative, Croatia

Dr Vjekoslav Mandić, Minister of Health, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Damir Novotny, CEO, T&MC Group, Croatia

Jakša Puljiz, PhD, Head of Department for European Integration, Institute for Development and International Relations, Croatia

Moderator: TBA 12:30-12:45 Projects presentation


Ministry of Agriculture representative, Croatia

Dr Mladen Golubić, Medical Director, Centre for lifestyle medicine, Cleveland Clinic, USA

Dr Zvonimir Šostar, director of the Teaching institute “Andrija Štampar”, Croatia

Diana Gluhak-Spajić, HEALTHY MEAL

Zvonimir Novak, President, Croatian Competitiveness Cluster of Food Processing Sector, Croatia

13:45-14:45 Lunch

14:45-15:30 Project presentations



Sanda Čorak, PhD, VP, Institute for Tourism, Zagreb, Croatia

Marin Čilić, Professional tennis player, Croatia, TBA

Marijan Kustić, Executive Director, Croatian Football Federation, Croatia

Damir Knjaz, PhD, University of Zagreb - Faculty of Kinesiology, Croatia

Igor Jukić, PhD, University of Zagreb - Faculty of Kinesiology, Croatia


Ranko Ćetković, General Secretary Assistant, Croatian Olympic Committee, Croatia

17:00-18:30 B2B networking

For more information about the conference and to reserve your spot, visit the official website

To follow the latest from the Croatian medical tourism story, follow the dedicated TCN section

To learn more about the forum organisers, including their other initiatives to develop medical tourism in the Adriatic, visit the Medical Group Ltd website



Monday, 7 October 2019

Sponsor a MBA Student on Medical Tourism Research Trip to Croatia

October 7, 2019 - A hands-on collaboration between Croatia and its diaspora via ACAP to bring one MBA student to Croatia for medical research. 

Ties between the Croatian medical tourism industry and the diaspora are strengthening, particularly in Cleveland, where the recent ACAP diaspora conference included a medical tourism panel. Also announced at the same time was the first-ever European Patient Experience and Innovation conference in Dubrovnik next year, which will be organised by Bagatin Clinic from Zagreb with a presentation by Cleveland Clinic. 

But there are several other initiatives strengthening ties and bringing mutually beneficial rewards. Among them is an initiative to fund an MBA student to visit Croatia for Medical Tourism research and study, and a fundraising campaign is currently underway and will last another 7 days. More information on the project below:

Healthcare has proven to be the biggest struggle in many countries. Croatia, the vacation destination on the Adriatic, is no exception and shows great promise to providing affordable healthcare to both its citizens and visitors. The country's modern clinics and pristine beaches have the potential to draw tourists for exceptional medical care, at modest prices, with phenomenal results.  The ACAP Medical Tourism Task Force has spent countless hours discussing and organizing a manner in which we, as Croatian diaspora, can support our homeland. We are now moving forward with multiple ongoing initiatives, including a project in the works with a group of Ivy League MBA students to help us develop the plan for launching pilot Health and Wellness programs in the coming three years. Help us take advantage of this cost-effective consulting resource to provide us with a vacation destination that can cure us both mentally and physically at a reasonable price.

Croatia, known as a breath-taking paradise, has taken the world by storm as a top vacation destination. The beautiful coast and never-ending local hospitality add to the allure of the small country on the Adriatic Sea. Over the past decade, Croatia has made strides towards a better country, and world-class health care. As the people of Croatia continue to work towards these goals, we ask that you help us, friends of Croatia, make just as great of an impact. The Association of Croatian American Professionals (ACAP) Medical Tourism Task Force (MTTF), in conjunction with students from an Ivy League MBA program, are laying the groundwork for a better Croatian healthcare system.  Please help support this cause.

ACAP is a member-driven, non-profit organization that focuses on sharing knowledge and expertise around matters that are of concern to Croatian and Croatian-American organizations. The ACAP MTTF was established in 2016 by a group of volunteers to advance initiatives aligned with both member expertise and issues of strategic importance to Croatia, and its citizens. 

Two key initiatives involved are: helping establish Croatia as a go-to destination for medical tourism and establishing a comprehensive cancer center. Croatia—attracting more than 18 million tourists yearly—has great potential to grow in medical tourism but has not had the proper foundation. Furthermore, in 2018 there were a total of 25,221 new cases of cancer among men and women in Croatia. The Croatian cancer center would aim to increase Croatia’s five-year cancer survival rates by 20%.

After years of planning, researching, and organizing, the MTTF has found the perfect organization to lay the groundwork for both medical tourism and cancer center initiatives. An Ivy League research university has provided MBA consulting expertise to corporate, government and non-profit clients in 60 countries since 1997 through a highly competitive program. The team, along with their faculty advisor, will spend 1000+ person-hours to provide us with in-depth analysis and recommendations to help make our ideas a reality. 

Focus areas would include: 

Identify, define and understand the target markets for these services; roughly quantify the demand for services based on the needs of the target market. 

Map the medical tourism ecosystem in Croatia to identify critical interdependencies, existing capabilities, risks, and potential partners.

Define the initial set of services to be offered. The focus will be on taking existing work, extending it and "packaging" it for key target audiences (patients, investors, and partners). 

Provide insights through relevant case studies of organizations who have successfully (or unsuccessfully) implemented similar programs. Define partnership needs and criteria for identifying and evaluating potential partners (specifically private clinics); test criteria through initial vetting of potential partners. 

Delineate the phases of development and resources required for scale-up over three years; identify the next steps of work to be done following the completion of this project. 

Project Outline - October 2019 to January 2020

5 students, 1 faculty advisor

Required travel: December 2-20, 2019

Costs will cover lodging, flights, meals and incidentals allowance and ground transportation

For more information, and to donate, click here

To follow the latest from the Croatian medical tourism industry, click here

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Bagatin Clinic Nominated for 2 International Awards at IMTJ 2019

October 1, 2019 - More international recognition for Bagatin Clinic from Zagreb and Split, which continues to raise the bar in Croatian medical tourism. 

It is about two years since I first became aware of the Croatian medical tourism industry, and I must confess I find its dynamics fascinating. That initial discovery of the excellence of St. Catherine Specialty Hospital, one of the Leading Hospitals of the World, Svjetlost Eye Clinic, and Bagatin Clinic was an impressive window into an area of tourism where Croatia has the potential to punch above its weight on the global stage and attract lucrative tourism 12-months a year. You can read my initial discoveries in Health Tourism is Coming Home: Why Zagreb is the Next Big Medical Tourism Destination.

Over that two-year period, it did not take long to figure out which was the most active and successful clinic in Croatia, as well as the most effective at promoting internationally not just itself, but Croatian medical tourism in general - Bagatin Clinic. 

It is a great story of three brothers, two of them surgeons, one not. But what Ognjen Bagatin may have lacked in his brothers' skills with the knife, he has more than made up with in terms of running the family business, which has enjoyed phenomenal growth and success in recent years, including opening up on the Adriatic coast for the first time earlier this year in Split

With a key focus on dentistry, plastic surgery, dermatology and cosmetic treatments, Bagatin Clinic has been slowly expanding its client base internationally, including what is - for me at least - perhaps the most inspiring story and advert for Croatian tourism I have come across - read Carl's story and his life-changing visit to Zagreb from the United States, while saving tens of thousands of dollars in the process.  

And the international awards followed, including being voted the best dermatology clinic in all Europe last year - see above. 

Arguably the most prestigious awards in the medical tourism industry, however, are the annual International Medical Travel Journal Awards, which this year will take place in Berlin in December. 

For the third year running, Bagatin Clinic has been nominated, this time for two awards in the international category - Best Aesthetic Surgery and Best Marketing Initiative, according to a recent Facebook post from CEO Bagatin. 


The nominations are the latest recognition for the dynamic clinic, which is also doing more than any other to develop Croatia's medical tourism industry, with Ognjen Bagatin tirelessly on the road to networking and developing strategies. The fruits of one such endeavour paid dividends in Cleveland last week, as Bagatin's close relationship with the world-famous Cleveland Clinic has resulted in Bagatin Clinic announcing the first-ever European Patient Experience and Innovation Conference, which will include participation from international presenter, Cleveland Clinic, to take place in Dubrovnik in March. 

If there was an IMTJ category for promoting the country's medical tourism potential, there would be few to rival Bagatin Clinic. We will bring you the results from Berlin as they arrive in December. 

To follow the Croatian medical tourism story, follow our dedicated TCN section


Wednesday, 25 September 2019

ACAP Presenting Croatian Medical Tourism Potential to Diaspora, US Market

September 25, 2019 - Last week's ACAP diaspora conference in Cleveland was another step forward for Croatia's medical tourism industry. TCN catches up with Ognjen Bagatin, who moderated the medical tourism panel. 

The big news, of course, we have already published - an agreement of cooperation between Bagatin Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, which will result in Europe's first Patient Experience conference to be held in Dubrovnik in March - organised by Bagatin with presentation by Cleveland Clinic. You can read more about that here


Ognjen Bagatin, the main driving force to establish Croatia's medical tourism industry on the global stage, is just back from the ACAP conference in Cleveland, and we had time to catch up at yesterday's Croatia 365 conference at the Zagreb Sheraton, where he gave me an overview of the medical tourism panel which was a key component of the Cleveland conference. 

Bagatin stated that there were two main goals:

⦁ Show the American Croatian society in US that Croatia has a great potential in this area, but also that we have points of excellence in some area of medicine and attracting large number of international patients/clients (Kvarner, Zagreb, Split) in areas of dental, orthopedic and rehabilitation, aesthetic surgery and non invasive aesthetic treatments, ophthalmology and medical wellness.

⦁ We shared there is opportunities for ACAP members (there are 1400 of them) for investments and getting involved in market development in Croatia, and that now is the right time to invest. This is an emerging market (just like tourism was 20 years ago)  

Our panelist shared success stories from the field and in different sectors:

Mate Car, Phd, assistant minister have shared that the legal framework is done, which means safety for investors, and that Ministry of Health is working on a working group to work on EU funding for next phase of EU funding – 2021-2027.

Marcel Medak, president of HGK health tourism group (and the director of Bizovacke Toplice), shared that now is the right time to invest because there will be an opportunity to invest in public speciality hospitals that are going to be presented soon for investors. This is a big opportunity for investors. Also he mentioned that his rehabilitation clinics had a 30% increase of foreign patients this year and that they are expecting the further growth in the future.

Marinko Rade, MD, Phd, awarded scientist and director of public orthopedic and rehabilitation hospital in Rovinj, shared that every year the Austrians insurance is raisng the quantity of people who they send to their clinics and that they are planning to invest 17 mil $ into further development of their hospital and health tourism in Rovinj. He is a young leader that we need to keep in Croatia.

Vladimir Mozetic, MD, Phd, shared info about Kvarner Cluster and what did they have been doing as a cluster in the last 5 years. Kvarner has 85,000 foreign patients every year, and 80% of them are for dental services. He was sharing how you can succeed with clusterization and branding yourself as a destination of health. He also shared that if you come one week in Losinj you will extend your life for 1 year, so come and try it.

Last but not least, an ACAP member Jeana Havidich, anesthesiologist from Dartmouth Hitchcock medical center, shared that together with TUCK Dartmouth MBA students she will do a project for developing Health and medical tourism in Croatia.  Tuck Dartmouth InSight Global consulting program and Kerry Laufer (project leader) are coming to Croatian in Fall 2019.   They really have done a phenomenal job and made a solid reputation within the international business community.   This is a huge thing for Croatia because their project are featured in Delta magazine throughout of USA.

We also shared why Croatia has a great potential and it is because we already have a market:

⦁ >20 mil. tourist in last two years

⦁ 7% of them are health motivated (according to TOMAS research)

⦁ The private health sector is growing 12-15 % every year

⦁ The industry of health and medical tourism will have an annual growth of 15-20% which is amazing  


(Ognjen Bagatin, left, with Cleveland Clinic CEO and fellow Croat, Tom Mihaljevic).

To follow the latest from the Croatian medical tourism story, follow the dedicated TCN section

To learm more about Bagatin Clinic, click here.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Bagatin, Cleveland Clinic to Host 1st European Patient Experience & Innovation Conference in Dubrovnik

September 23, 2019 - A huge boost for the profile of Croatia's medical tourism industry, as Bagatin Clinic announces the first European Patient Experience & Innovation conference, to be held in Dubrovnik. 

Last year I was invited to a press conference at St Catherine Specialty Hospital in Zagreb, one of the Leading Hospitals in the World. I was more than impressed when I learned that the reason for the conference was the announcement of a partnership between the Croatian hospital and OneOne, co-founded by Mayo Clinic, to become the first European partner to make available in Europe the revolutionary RightMed pharmacogenetic test. You can read more about that here

A Croatian hospital, the only place in Europe where this groundbreaking test was available. Impressive. And a partner of a project co-founded by Mayo Clinic. Prestigious. 

And just as Mayo Clinic is one of the top names in global healthcare excellence, so too is Cleveland Clinic. 

And Cleveland Clinic is also coming to Croatia with a European first... 

patient-experience-dubrovnik (2).jpg

On March 19-20, 2020, to be exact. Croatian medical tourism pioneer Ognjen Bagatin, CEO of leading regional clinic, Bagatin Clinic, announced from Cleveland the first European Patient Experience and Innovation Conference, to be held at Valamar Lacroma Hotel in Dubrovnik, organised by Bagatin Clinic with collaborative international presenter, Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic hosts its own patient experience programme each year, and this will be the first of its kind in Europe. 

The relationship between Croatia and Cleveland Clinic is not new and is one which has been personally fostered by Bagatin, whose efforts to learn from the best are bringing international ideas and expertise to the Croatian medical tourism industry. Bagatin was responsible for bringing Joe Sweet, Cleveland Clinic's International Patient Experience Director to Zagreb earlier this year to speak at the 5th Annual Medical Tourism Conference. TCN interviewed Sweet (you can read the interview here) where he explained how why he had come to Croatia:

Firstly, our CEO Tom Mihaljevic is Croatian. But actually the reason I am here is driven by Ognjen Bagatin of Bagatin Clinic who came to see us in Cleveland to learn about the patient experience and our Patients First initiative. I met with him almost a year ago now, and we really hit it off from that first lunch we had together. I learned more about his personality, his drive and what he is trying to achieve. That was very impressive. And then this opportunity came up with Euro Events to come over and share our story, and Ognjen really connected that, making it happen.

We are interested in spreading the news of who we are and what we do and forming those connections around the world. So we see this as an opportunity to do that, to get out there and build more of those relationships.

patient-experience-dubrovnik (3).jpg

We will bring you more details of the conference as it develops, but in the meantime, you can catch the latest from the Croatian medical tourism story in our dedicated section

Monday, 5 August 2019

Travel & Tourism News Features Potential of Croatian Medical Tourism

August 5, 2019 - More international recognition of the potential of Croatia's medical tourism industry in a featured article in Travel & Tourism News. 

It is one of the great potential growth areas of the Croatian economy, a product which has already demonstrated global excellence, and one which industry experts agree could put Croatia in the top 10 in the world within a decade - the lucrative and rapidly expanding global medical tourism industry. 

As I wrote recently in Branding Croatia: 5 Gifts and Trends to Focus On, medical tourism should be one of the pillars of Croatia's tourism strategy moving forward. A 12-month industry which combines excellent treatment with the safe and relaxed Croatian lifestyle for recuperation has tremendous potential. Potential which has been recognised and featured in Travel & Tourism News last week.  

“Croatia has the tradition, skills and knowledge, many natural healing remedies and tourism capacities needed for development of health tourism. We have all the prerequisites to become a serious health destination on the European and world map of health tourism. Croatia needs to strengthen the infrastructure and encourage the linking of public and private entities, create content and products, since we have all the geographical, natural and professional conditions needed,” said Ivana Kolar, co-organiser of the recent ESPA Congress in Terme Tuhelj, and tourism advisor.

Several of Croatia's top clinics are featured - Bagatin Clinic, Svjetlost Eye Clinic, Akoromion, and the Special Hospital for Rehabilitation in Krapinske Toplice. You can read the article here

And if you are looking for one example of how Croatian medical tourism works par excellence, I highly recommend you read Carl's story about his life-changing visit to Bagatin Clinic in Zagreb all the way from the United States. It is, for me, probably the best Croatian tourism promotion story I have ever read

To follow the latest from the Croatian medical tourism industry, follow the dedicated TCN section.

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