Sunday, 19 June 2022

Naphthalene Oil, Europe's Unique Medical Tourism in Naftalan, Zagreb County

June 19, 2022 - Croatia's emerging medical tourism industry has some rather unique features, including good news for those battling skin diseases - Europe's only naphthalene oil. 

The story begins with a legend of a camel far, far away in a time gone by on the fabled Silk Road. A camel on one of the many caravans travelling on the famous trade route collapsed due to disease and exhaustion. Figuring out that there was not much they could do apart from making the camel comfortable, the merchants of the caravan left the camel in the shade in an oasis next to a large, dark lake, then departed on their way. Unable to stand, the poor camel slipped and fell into the dark lake. 

Months passed. The merchants passed the oasis again, this time in the opposite direction with the returning caravan, and they were astonished to find the camel alive and well, relaxing in the shade of the oasis. Noticing the darker colour of the camel due to the lake, the merchants concluded that the lake must have some magical healing powers, and they scooped up some of the dark liquid and continued on their journey. 

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And that is how naftalan, or naphthalene, came to be discovered. It soon became highly sought-after in eastern medicine as a remedy for skin diseases, and came into regular use in eastern medicine in the 19th century. But it could only be found in the oil-producing country of Azerbaijan, where the city of Naftalan was founded. Marco Polo paid tribute to it on his Silk Road travels 700 years earlier. 

And then, in the 1970s, far, far away in a country called Croatia (ironically the country of Polo's birth), a well of naphthalene oil was found close to the town of Ivanic Grad (which has its own oil-producing heritage), currently the only place in Europe apparently where one can find this dermatological treasure. 

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The unusual discovery is attributed to the remnants of what was once the mighty Pannonian Sea. Naphthalene oil has been formed from biological, organic material by the deposition of the remains of dead microorganisms, more precisely phytoplankton, zooplankton, bacteria, algae and higher terrestrial plants on the bottom of the sea or lake, where they were covered with mineral particles. 

Yet another unique treasure for Croatia!

Such a treasure indeed that in 1989 Special Hospital Naftalan was opened near Ivanic Grad, just 30 kilometres from Zagreb. In the last 30+ years, it has become a haven for patients with various skin complaints, and the team at Naftalan have successfully added a range of products and treatments. 

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Through years of work, the experts of Special Hospital Naftalan have developed naphthalene therapy, which was proven efficient for treating psoriasis, an unpleasant chronic disease, and the related psoriatic arthritis. Naphthalene has anti-inflammatory and desensitizing properties and affects the metabolism of proteins and electrolytes.

The treatment includes specific, unique procedures - baths in naphthalene tubs, iontophoresis with naphthalene, mastic therapy (a healing mixture of naphthalene, paraffin, and camphor helps to reduce pain and to recover after suffering a brain stroke), ultrasound combined with naphthalene or with phototherapy.

In addition to all the medical therapies, the hospital has developed an impressive range of cosmetic products based on naphthalene oils, creams, and shampoos, created and produced by the Naftalan subsiduary, Ivalan Terme. The aim is to develop the range into a full cosmetic line to satisfy the needs of customers with dry or problematic skin.

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Naftalan is the only hospital in Europe and one of the few in the world to provide treatment for skin and inflammatory rheumatic diseases using a unique natural resource - naphthalene mineral oil. Since opening its doors over 30 years ago, the special hospital has enjoyed considerable success and expansion, treating over 20,000 patients in that time. A high number of those guests come from Scandinavia, Germany, Italy and Russia. 

Naftalan boasts 137 beds, of which 26 are luxury. The general facilities have been expanded, and one can now find a complex with three indoor and one outdoor pool, a new kitchen and restaurant, gym and multifunctional hall. There is a swimming school for children, recreational swimming, hydromassage, water exercises, Pilates and other fitness programs are available to both Naftalan patients and citizens. The pools are open to the public from 07:00 to 21:00. 

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- Health tourism is an important link in the tourism of our county, and Naftalan is certainly a diver in terms of capacity, significant investments and the tradition that the spa has. The key social challenges for the development of health tourism are the growth of costs of the EU health system, prevention and new forms of treatment and personalized medicine, demographic changes through constant aging and the need for a healthier lifestyle. Zagreb County is also recognized as the fastest-growing health tourism destination in the European Union and is considered a high-income industry that then vertically binds and strengthens many other segments important for the accelerated development of the entire region, points out the director of the Zagreb County Tourist Board Ivana Alilovic.

In addition to the dermatology offer, there are also 4 specialists working in the Department for Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, with programmes for inflammatory rheumatic diseases, post-traumatic and post-operative care, and degenerative changes of joints and spine and vertebrogenic pain syndromes.

There are also 27 physiotherapists working on a range of modern physical therapies - combined with electrotherapy, kinetic therapy, massage, hydrotherapy with underwater massage and a pool with running thermal mineral water, accompanied by naphthalene therapy with electronically conducted process of regeneration and sterilisation of naphthalene.

The gyms are equipped with exercise machines, tubs for underwater massage, a space for naphthalene therapy with 24 tubs, a pool with thermal water, machines for thermotherapy (therapy with paraffin, naphthalene and camphor) and criotherapy, a room for massage, a cosmetic salon, a wellness zone with saunas, a whirlpool and a laconium.

An excellent addition to Croatia's medical tourism story, and one which owes its thanks to a camel all those years ago. One wonders how quickly the camel would have recuperated in Ivanic Grad...

You can learn more about the unique Naftalan offer on the official website

To learn more about what is on offer with health tourism in Croatia, check out the Total Croatia Health Tourism in a Page guide

 

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Croatian ZagrebMed Platform Bringing Together 20 Leading Facilities

May the 26th, 2022 - The new Croatian ZagrebMed platform, set to launch as part of the country's blossoming health and wellness tourism offer later this year, has already gathered some impressive names.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, in October this year, a new digital platform for health tourism in the City of Zagreb called ZagrebMed will be launched, which will bring together about 20 leading health institutions from various fields of medicine, which are ready to take a significant step forward on the demanding global market.

The team headed by Ivan Rendulic, founder and director of RexRea, which has been actively working on the development of Croatian medical tourism for the last eight years, has made an effort to connect patients with Croatian institutions and doctors.

Rendulic explained that they have the strong support of the Zagreb Tourist Board in the formation of the Croatian ZagrebMed platform, and revealed the details of the ambitious project.

Among the institutions that have already joined the future Croatian ZagrebMed platform are Klinika Svjetlost, Agram, Akromion, Magdalena, Aksis, Naftalan and the polyclinics Bagatin, Sinteza, IVF Zagreb, LF Medical, Poliderma and Avitum, and some other well-known institutions are currently preparing to join the expanding list.

"We have excellent doctors and institutions in Zagreb with excellent services, but when we have a look around outside of Croatia and go to various world fairs and gatherings dedicated to medical and health tourism, we realise that few people know about this country's rich offer. With the arrival of a large number of patients from Italy, we've developed our dental tourism offer, and we're slowly losing our grip on that market, because we have growing competitors in Albania, Hungary, Serbia, and more and more Italian patients end up going there instead of coming here,'' warned Rendulic, who therefore wants to bring together leading institutions within the scope of the Croatian ZagrebMed platform.

So far, ZagrebMed has 12 private healthcare facilities under its belt, and the plan is to have about 20 leading institutions by the time it launches properly this October.

For more, check out Made in Croatia.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Medical Tourism, the Hidden Gem in Croatia's Remote Work Revolution

One of the joys of living and writing about Croatia over the last 20 years has been the constant stream of new discoveries. When I first bought my house back in 2002 on Hvar, there was very little in the English-speaking media about Croatia apart from the aftermath of war and the fabled coast of former Yugoslavia.

I myself knew little about my new home island (having only heard its name 2 days before I arrived and agreed my purchase), but it was not long before I got to learn just what a treasure I had stumbled upon. Named by Conde Nast in 1997 as one of the top 10 most beautiful islands in the world, few had bothered to delve any deeper into the island beyond the beach and the nightlife, and when I started my first blog, Total Hvar, back in 2011, I began to discover a real bunch of treasures. For here was an island which boasted the oldest public theatre in Europe, had more UNESCO heritage than any island in the world, several outstanding grape varieties found only in the island's excellent wines, and even (it seems) the oldest olive tree in the country dating back some 2,500 years. The more I researched, the more I learned, and the more even locals followed the blog so that they could learn more about the island of their birth from this curious foreigner. 

But it wasn't just Hvar. As I became more established as a writer based in Croatia and curious about the Croatia away from the beach, the more interesting the inbox became. Did I know about... would I like to attend... come and see this unique festival... Over the years, the invitations have been constant, inspiring, and often unique - it has been genuinely a privilege to learn - and write about - such interesting topics as rarely get reported on outside the Croatian language. 

And one thing I have learned over the years here was that Croatia would always be the most surprising when I least expected it. And so it proved a few years ago, when a chap called Ognjen Bagatin asked me to come to his polyclinic. He was a long-term fan of my blog and had something to show me that he thought I would find interesting. 

Croatia's medical tourism industry. 

An industry I had not even heard about in my 15 years living in the country, but within an hour of Ognjen's time and a subsequent tour of three Zagreb facilities, I realised that here was an incredible gem that was already competing on the world stage in terms of excellence and affordability, and was - once again - a Croatian tourism story untold. After a tour of Bagatin Clinic, St Catherine's Specialty Hospital, and Svjetlost Eye Clinic, I was hooked and wrote the first of many articles on medical tourism in Croatia and its potential - Health Tourism is Coming Home: Why Zagreb is the Next Big Medical Tourism Destination.

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(Ognjen Bagatin with his Berlin award)

And it seems that my introductory medical tourism facilities were rather impressive on the world stage. A couple of years later, I was in Berlin at the International Medical Travel Journal awards, as Bagatin won best international cosmetic surgery in the world. St Catherine's (among MANY other things) was the first facility in Europe to partner with Mayo Clinic on its innovative OneOme pharmacogenetic test, and a host of global celebrities were heading to Zagreb to fix their eyes at Svjetlost, including Ivana Trump.

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(Ivana Trump with much better vision after a visit to Svjetlost - Photo credit: Svjetlost.hr)

And yet, as impressive as the Zagreb medical tourism offer appeared to be, the really exciting centre of Croatia's medical tourism industry appeared to be on the coast close to Rijeka, in the region of Kvarner. Hvar (another amazing thing I learned about my adopted island) was the home of organised health tourism in Europe, dating back to 1868, but Opatija and the Crikvenica riviera were not far behind, and they had built on their impressive history by offering a quite phenomenal range of leading medical tourism services. One clinic in Rijeka was treating a staggering 60,000 (mostly Italian) dental patients a year. The key factors being high quality and low price. 

Just how much of a saving, and just how much of an impact that successful medical tourism can have, is encapsulated in Carl's Story, one of the best Croatian tourism promotion stories I have ever come across - and a story which transformed Carl's mouth, self-confidence and future, while saving him tens of thousands of dollars. You can read the story here

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For me, the epicentre of Croatian medical tourism excellence pivoted around the annual Crikvenica International Health Tourism conference, which brought together the best of the country's health tourism experts, as well as some truly world-class speakers and examples of best practice, including Sherine Azli, CEO of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council, whose interview with TCN had me on a flight to Kuala Lumpur the following year to collect a media award for medical tourism

Having attended the 2018 and 2019 conferences in Crikvenica, the 2021 conference opened my eyes to a new synergy for Croatian tourism, and one which had not been discussed before - digital nomads and remote workers. One of the key target markets for the industry was the 1.2 million Croatian diaspora in the United States, and with the Cleveland Clinic CEO himself a Croat, word of Croatian medical excellence was an easy story to tell. It was a good strategy, and the work done by ACAP (Association of Croatian American Professionals) was commendable. 

But by 2021 - at least in my opinion - the market had changed considerably, and one of Croatia's most untapped tourism potentials revealed itself. Listening to the ACAP presentation on efforts to promote to the 1.2 million diaspora made a lot of sense, but the world had changed since the 2019 conference. And rather than working hard to persuade a niche market to board a plane from halfway across the world, a new, much bigger market presented itself, with the additional benefit that they were already here. 

Digital nomads. 

Croatia is becoming one of the hottest nomad destinations in Europe, as more and more people are choosing to spend time working remotely from Croatia. They are attracted by the lifestyle, climate, nature, gastronomy, safety, spoken English, great WiFi, affordability and accessibility. All great reasons to come and spend a month or twelve. 

But very few foreigners know of the excellence and affordability of Croatia's medical tourism offer. From dental services and cosmetic surgery, to eye surgery and physiotherapy, the best of the best in Croatia compares with the very best in the world in numerous cases, but at a fraction of the price. 

And with the increased flexibility and mobility of the workforce, it has never been easier to plan for affordable medical procedures - and the recuperation time in idyllic nature, climate and lifestyle as might be necessary. 

Croatia, your safe, affordable, lifestyle destination where your medical needs can be addressed for a fraction of the price back home. It is perhaps not classic tourism, but it is tourism which is sustainable, lucrative, and for the future. The stars are aligning on this latest tourism gift. It remains to be seen if Croatia will take advantage. 

To learn more about medical tourism in Croatia, check out the dedicated Total Croatia guide.   

Sunday, 6 February 2022

Croatian Health Tourism Services Presented at Expo Dubai

ZAGREB, 6 Feb 2022 - Croatian providers of health tourism services have presented their services at the World Expo 2020 in Dubai and agreed cooperation with nearly 50 clients from the Middle East, Russia and India, the Croatian Tourism Board (HTZ) said earlier this week.

The HTZ, in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism and Sport and with the support of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, organised a presentation in the Croatian Pavilion as part of the business workshop "Full of Well-being", at this week's theme of the Expo "Health and Wellness".

"Health tourism is a product that has a strong resource basis and a rich tradition in Croatia. The specialised business workshop at the Expo was a unique opportunity to further boost demand for health tourism services," said HTZ director Kristjan Staničić.

A total of 192 countries are participating in this year's Expo, which makes it the biggest global non-commercial event of economic and cultural importance.

The exhibition presents a unique opportunity for Croatia and other countries to present their products and services to business people, investors, international institutions and foreign diplomats.

Since its opening in autumn 2021, the exhibition has been visited by more than 11 million people. It closes at the end of March.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Friday, 14 January 2022

Renowned Health Resort In Istria to Introduce Senior Housing, Focus on Foreign Markets

Istarske Toplice is a renowned thermal health spa resort in central Istria offering a wide range of health care, wellness and fitness services. Their new plan to introduce independent living facilities for persons aged 55+ has already drawn interest from Slovenia, Italy, and Croats in diaspora

As of January 2022, the popular health resort in Istria has a new director who’s planning to turn things around after the pandemic dealt their business a blow. The new director of Istarske Toplice Vlado Mezak discussed his plans with Glas Istre on January 13th, 2022.

‘I’ve approached my new position with a vision to keep developing medical and tourism services that will take us to the top ranks of health tourism in Croatia and beyond. After all, we’re at a location with more than 75 million people living within the radius of 500 kilometres. The resources are there, Istarske Toplice ranks among the top three thermal springs in Europe based on the water quality and its curative properties’, said Mezak.

Business was thriving before the pandemic struck, so much so that the company was about to start an investment cycle in early 2020. And then…

‘We saw a drop from 35,000 overnight stays in 2019 to 10,000 stays in 2020. Last year there was an increase during summer so things were slightly better, but still half as much as in 2019. Energy prices increased, and we had additional expenses because of Covid’, said director Mezak.

‘The state did help us in 2020 and 2021 to some extent, but this year there’s no support for our business segment. We’re in a situation where we have to come up with new business models that will help us get through the crisis’, said the new director, adding that the resort is only booked at 10% of its full capacity at the moment.

As expected, it’s a situation they don’t find satisfactory, but are actively working to turn things around. They are planning short-term activities that are expected to attract more guests, and are modifying some of their packages to highlight their affordability, the quality of their health services and the benefits of visiting a health spa.

‘We will be offering anti-stress packages, as well as post-Covid rehabilitation which is sorely needed these days’, explained Mezak.

Istarske Toplice has a total of 148 hotel rooms, 120 in Hotel Mirna and 20 in Hotel Sv. Stjepan; there are some 250 beds available to resort guests.

So far, domestic guests made up the majority of their visitor count, growing from 55% in 2018 to 78% in 2021. As far as international visitors are concerned, the resort mostly saw guests from Italy and Slovenia who either stay for the weekend, or book one-week or two-week rehabilitation programmes.

The management is now planning to focus more on foreign markets, namely Italy, Slovenia, Austria and Germany.

Another major plan is in the works for the health spa, according to its owner and Chairman of the Board Mirko Kliman.

Named ‘Quality of life +55’, the project would introduce senior housing at the resort, i.e. independent living units for persons over the age of 55. The project is worth 30 million kuna; Kliman is expecting to get EU funding to cover 50-70 percent of the sum, and he will personally finance the other part.

Existing facilities at the resort would thus be partially reconstructed to create the new housing units. Some 100 hotel rooms will be remodelled into 40 apartments, accommodating sixty to seventy tenants who will also have access to other available facilities and services at the resort. According to the owner, they don’t lack interest.

‘When we first started to elaborate the project a few years ago, we conducted a survey and received 114 applications in the span of 15 days, most of which came from Slovenia, Italy, and from Croats living abroad’, said Kliman.

They’ll soon be applying for EU funding and if everything goes according to plan, implementation of the project could begin in late autumn.

‘Quality of life +55’ would enable the tenants to live a carefree life at a quiet location, with access to additional services and facilities at the health spa, such as medical consultations, a thermal pool and a heated pool, a wellness centre, a fitness centre, and more.

Kliman says it’s the only such project in Croatia as far as he’s aware, as this housing concept is still more prevalent in western European countries. ‘It’s a modern approach to growing old’, he says.

 

Thursday, 14 October 2021

CIHT Conference to Gather International Health Tourism Experts in Crikvenica

October 14, 2021 - The region's most influential health tourism conference, the Crikvenica International Health Tourism Conference (CIHT Conference), will be held on November 4 and 5, 2021, for the ninth year in a row at the Hotel Katarina in Selce.

The organizers are the Crikvenica Tourist Board and the Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster. This year in a hybrid edition, the conference is traditionally held in English and will bring together world-renowned experts in the fields of health, tourism, marketing, and education, to review the latest trends in health tourism, exchange experiences, and find new ways to communicate in these pandemic times, reports T.portal.

"Although this year COVID-19 fills newspaper columns and front pages of portals, in our environment, the need for health services and health tourism, in general, does not cease, and Kvarner and Crikvenica have much to offer everyone who needs recovery, rich sea air, and mild climate. Business conditions and promotions fully take on solutions and views on the settings and development of a diverse tourist offer, especially health tourism. Distinguished speakers will share their knowledge and experience," said Dr. Vladimir Mozetič, president of the Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster, which will be attended by, among others, Dr. Mario Škugor, endocrinologist and director of education of the prestigious American Clinic Cleveland, Velimir Šonje, economic analyst, and many others.

Over the years, CIHT has hosted excellent experts from all over the world who, with the amount of knowledge and experience, make a valuable asset in further progress and promotion of health and health tourism in the region. This year's ninth CIHT conference continues to contribute to applying current theoretical knowledge and trends in practice, emphasizing the strategic importance of the development of health tourism in Croatia with an efficient connection to foreign and domestic markets. Along with top lecturers, the conference's priority is the best possible quality of content that abounds in interesting, educational, innovative, and current topics and workshops.

The director of the Crikvenica Tourist Board, Marijana Biondić, and the leader of the CIHT conference pointed out that she is incredibly proud of another edition of the conference, which will be the best so far:

"This tourist year has confirmed the position and importance of Kvarner as a favorite EU destination. Safe, reliable, with an increasingly high-quality offer of accommodation and experiences, the Crikvenica Riviera is in full swing, and health tourism has the opportunity to lead this trend."

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Weekend for Health With Exercise and Relaxation Activities in Ivanić-Grad

June 8, 2021 - For all those looking to put the troubled past and stress behind them, the Weekend for Health event in Ivanić-Grad may be the solution. The city's tourist board has organized a full program of relaxation, exercise, and meditation activities on June 12 and 13.

After several months of isolation, which affected the physical and mental health of people, it is time for citizens to relax and "reset" in Ivanić-Grad. A series of free activities aimed at health, as part of the Weekend for Health event, will be held at the Zelenjak Sports Park next to the Naftalan Special Hospital and at their new swimming pools, in compliance with all epidemiological measures, reported Turističke Priče today.

Those who want to swim for free can do so on Saturday and Sunday, from 9 am to 7 pm at the new SB Naftalan pools. For those younger, from 7 to 10 years, a swimming school is organized both days, while adults will be able to enjoy functional training, aqua aerobics, and senior Pilates. In addition to swimming pools, sugar and blood pressure measurements will be organized in the morning, as well as a series of lectures and workshops on the topic of active aging, running, stretching, aromatherapy, how to cook for children, and more.

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Ivanić-Grad Tourist Board

On both days of the Weekend for Health event, people of all ages will be able to rent props for table tennis, badminton, bowling, play tennis on the tennis courts, and have a good time. The youngest ones can join the workshop for making puppets, and there will also be acting for children from 10 am. From 4 pm, they are provided with entertainment by dancing or playing on the training ground. Adults can relax during this time with breathing exercises, sun salutations, or a gong bath. If you are not ready for exercise and an active weekend, you can watch the Croatian Junior Crossbow Championship, children's handball tournament, or streetball. Explore Ivanić and find out which are the three black gold medals of Moslavina on an interesting educational walk with a guide on Saturday and Sunday at 11 am.

You can take a break with healthy snacks in Caffe bar Naftalan 2, Dribbling Food Caffe, or Café bar Zelenjak. Local products can be found at a small fair of local family farms. Enjoy an open-air concert by Jelena Mesarić and Saša Tadić by the old pool on Saturday night from 8 pm.

In order for us all to remain healthy, safe, and happy, care must be taken to adhere to epidemiological measures. Therefore, the number of seats in some groups is limited and it is advisable to reserve your seat in advance. For group training organized by the Special Hospital Naftalan, you can do it by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone on 01 2834 533. For other content, there is an e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or number 01 2881 591. In case there is bad weather, events will be unfortunately canceled.

There will be no shortage of rich events for the rest of the month. A weekend for wellness and recreation awaits you at the Petek Excursion Site and the Sport Hotel on June 19 and 20. Next, June 26, a weekend in nature, ie hiking in the Marča forest and a visit to the Kezele Rural Tourism. Detailed information about entertainment events is available on Facebook and the website of the Ivanić-Grad Tourist Board.

For more on lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Development of Health Tourism: High Priority for Croatian Tourist Offer

March 25, 2021 - Both the Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Sports and Croatian tourist boards recognised the development of health tourism as a high priority for Croatia.

To discuss the development of health tourism in Croatia, a branch that is becoming one of the more important Croatian tourist products, Croatian Tourism and Sports minister Nikolina Brnjac met with Kvarner Tourist Board director Irena Peršić Živadinov, Kvarner Health Tourism cluster president Vladimir Možetič, and Zagreb Tourist Board director Martina Bienenfeld. As life expectancy and healthy lifestyle trends increase, the value of health tourism grows. The novel coronavirus only made that growth even more rapid.

"Over 80,000 tourists in 2020 visited Kvarner (well-known for Lošinj Island and its hospital for respiratory issues) for health services. Today, many people are recovering from the consequences of the novel coronavirus there," said the Kvarner Tourist Board director Živadinov.  

"We have all the advantages for further development of health tourism: a good reputation of health services, qualified staff, natural richness of thermal sources, good climate, and long tradition of tourism," said minister Brnjac. Her goal is to pull Croatia out of the perception of a country only good for the summer season.

Croatia offers health services in wellness and medicine tourism. Health tourism is most associated with the regions of Kvarner, Istria, northern Croatia, and Zagreb, but the goal is to include other regions that have the potential for health tourism and to achieve the goals of a strategy that needs to be accomplished by 2030.

Martina Bienenfeld said that the Zagreb Tourist Board is working on the City's recognition as the centre of medical excellence. She pointed out good traffic connections, a mixture of the Mediterranean and mid-Europe climate, as well as good prices of health services as great advantages of Croatia's capital to the international clientele.

The Health Care Bill and Services in Tourism Bill now allow hospitality and health tourism services in hospitals and medical centres. These legal changes are also significant in attracting further investments in the field.

For more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Health and Wellness Tourism Opportunities Discussed at Adriatic Region Investment Forum

November 5, 2020 – At the Adriatic Region Investment Forum held yesterday in Zagreb Hotel Westin, participants discussed health and wellness tourism opportunities in Croatia and the Adriatic region.

As part of the fourth Adriatic Region Investment Forum for Health, Sports, and Tourism, held yesterday at the Westin Hotel in Zagreb, numerous potentials of Croatia and the entire Adriatic region were presented as year-round health tourism destinations.

Under the new circumstances, panelists and lecturers were filmed in a set-up studio in the hall of the Westin Hotel, and the forum could be followed online.

Projects of new tourist capacities

Of course, the topic of the coronavirus pandemic and the new circumstances that it brought in health tourism could not have been avoided. Dr. Prem Jagyasi (India-UAE), one of the world's most important experts and promoters in health tourism, gave a lecture on integrating wellness programs into the global health and medical tourism industry and was also joined by Dr. Lutz Lungwitz, President of the German Association of Medical Wellness, Emin Cakmak, founder of the Global Healthcare Travel Council from Turkey, and Dr. Jeana Havidich from the USA (Association of Croatian American Professionals).

The presentation of the prepared projects is a special feature of this Investment Forum, and several projects of new hospitals and other health and tourism capacities in Croatia and the region have been offered, as well as large health tourist resorts.

A synergy of rural and health tourism

The panel "Food as a resource in tourism" provoked an interesting discussion in which the multidisciplinary nature of the participants enabled possible new directions for the development of rural areas in Croatia. The synergy of rural and health tourism can strengthen the production, but also the settlement of rural areas, especially in the next financial period (2021-2027) in which such development will be encouraged, especially if it is set as one of the strategic developments of the Republic of Croatia.

Tugomir Majdak, State Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Marcel Medak (President of the Health Tourism Association of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce), Assistant Professor Sanja Music Milanovic (HZJZ), Zeljko Ivancevic (Consultant - ECS Brussels), and John Raffetto (American Adriatic Health Ltd, Washington DC) participated in this panel.

AI in health and rural tourism

Another interesting panel entitled "Challenges of the application of artificial intelligence in health and rural tourism" is the work of experts from the company Infodom, which was the main sponsor of the Forum this year. About this interesting and instructive topic through the application of new technologies, Hrvoje Sagrak, President of the Management Board of Infodom, Ph.D. Silvana Tomić Rotim, director of the Croatian Institute for Informatics, Mislav Malenica, president of the CRO.AI association, and prof.dr.sc.Slavko Vidović, a founder of Infodom, gave their opinions.

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Source: Adriatic Region Investment Forum

Sports and health infrastructure

In previous years, the topic of sports was opened at the Forum as part of what is important for the branding of Croatia, and this year again one of the panels is dedicated to this topic. The intention was to emphasize the need for sports infrastructure as a basis to be able to brand sports potential in various sports in which Croatia achieves above-average results.

Sports infrastructure, including human resources, is a strong basis for fitting the sports offer into the overall year-round tourism offer. The last, but very interesting and energetic panel entitled "Sports and health infrastructure in the branding of sustainable tourism" was attended by Ranko Ćetković, Assistant Secretary General of the COC, prof.dr.sc. Igor Jukić, Ph.D. Miljenko Bura and a pioneer of the health industry, prim.dr. Vlasta Brozičević from Terme Selce.

Terms and circumstances of investing in Croatia

The investment forum was opened by the envoy of the Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, State Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports Tonči Glavina, and introductory speeches were given by the envoy of the Mayor of Zagreb Milan Bandić, Ana Pandža Kunčević, Violetta Yanshevskaja (who spoke from Kiev), President of Global Healthcare Travel Council, and the main organizer dr.sc. Miljenko Bura.

Some of the main names on the list of speakers are dr.sc. Jakša Puljiz (Institute for Development and International Relations), Tonči Glavina, State Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Šime Erlić, State Secretary at the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds, Jurica Mateša from the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, and John Gašparac (PWC Croatia), who also moderated an interesting and informative panel which discussed the stimulating conditions and circumstances of investing in Croatia.

Special emphasis was placed on the topicality of "European" money, which must contribute to faster achievement of strategic goals of the National Development Strategy of the Republic of Croatia until 2030. Invitation and messages were sent to interested investors to create preconditions for intensive investment in the next ten years.

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Saturday, 1 August 2020

Croatian Tourism: Croatia Has Chance to Brand Itself as Health Destination

As Novac writes on the 31st of July, 2020, according to all strategies for the development of Croatian tourism's offer, health tourism has a priority role, but this segment has also suffered a heavy blow due to the coronavirus pandemic. On the other hand, The appearance of the new coronavirus has forced us to become much more aware of the importance of health on a global scale, which could be a great advantage in the development of Croatia as a leading destination for health tourism in the future.

Marcel Medak, president of the Health Tourism Association of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) and director of Sunčane toplice, agrees. He believes that in the future, the demand of patients for certain services, such as for the rehabilitation of chronic diseases, will fall, but he also sees this as a great chance for institutions that are ready to turn more strongly towards the health tourism market.

"I'd especially like to emphasise thallasotherapy, it uses marine natural healing factors that have a beneficial effect on the respiratory system, which is especially important in these pandemic times. This is an opportunity to use all our of potential and put a lot of hotels along the coast into the function of health tourism, which would significantly extend the existing tourist season. However, one of the key preconditions for that is the privatisation of special hospitals and health resorts, which is stated in the Action Plan for the Development of Health Tourism in the Republic of Croatia prepared by the Institute for Tourism,'' Medak points out, adding that it is crucial to connect all stakeholders, and that the HGK's Health Tourism Community should play a key role.

Terme Tuhelj Management Board Advisor Ivana Kolar believes that the Law which enables the registration of economic activity in health tourism brings great benefits with it, primarily for special hospitals and health centres that have not operated as companies and were as such not in the VAT system.

"Private entities operating on the open market and financing their business exclusively from sales activities depend on the quality of their services, communication with the market and their innovation, which motivates them to go forward with vcontinuous development and is the only long-term sustainable business model. It's necessary to soften the borders between special hospitals, rehabilitation and wellness centres in order to get closer to European standards of health tourism and provide guests with a richer service,'' said Kolar, and Medak agrees that such regulations bring about much more transparent business, simpler tax policies and a simpler employee recruitment procedure.

Krešimir Škof, deputy director of the Special Hospital for Medical Rehabilitation Stubičke Toplice, which is also registered for health tourism, emphasises that the new legislative framework is good because there is no need to establish a subsidiary, but everything is done "under the same hat". However, he says that the registration of the activity itself means nothing if it isn't accompanied by an adequate offer.

"If the facilities are old and of poor quality, if the service doesn't meet the criteria of a demanding market and if there's no evidence of quality, then there can be no progress in the market. We've invested in our workers, services and facilities for years - over 80 million kuna has been invested in the last ten years,'' said Škof.

Another great strength of health tourism for Croatian tourism is that most of the facilities are located in the interior of Croatia and provide great potential for the development of continental tourism, and good examples of such development can be seen in Croatia's neighbouring countries. Strengthening continental tourism capacities would bring about more balanced economic development and reduce seasonality, but the precondition for all this is a quality and well-educated workforce. All our interlocutors agree with this, so they're paying special attention to their employees and their education.

In addition to the existing educational institutions, the Regional Centre of Competence in Tourism and Hospitality in Zabok will soon be established. The centre should contribute to the education of future staff needed in this sector, adult education and the monitoring of new technologies and trends across the rest of Europe and the world, and this is especially welcomed in the already popular Terme Tuhelj.

"Terme Tuhelj has always actively cooperated with the hospitality school in Zabok, which is the foundation of the development of the competence centre, and we'll be very happy to involve all those who actively participate in the development of tourism in its work and activities. It's difficult when it comes to staff working in tourism in the whole of Croatia, and Zagorje is no exception, so Terme has developed internal protocols for training, education and the further development of its employees, from the point of their employment to their entire career. There have been cases of hiring foreign staff, but in small numbers, so for now the team is managing to fill up with staff from Croatia, mostly from Zagorje and the surrounding areas,'' said Horvat, and Medak thinks similarly, pointing out that in Sunčane toplice they had no problems finding workers, as well as other employers in health tourism.

"The biggest staffing problem is the chronic shortage of specialist doctors that we had in Sunčane toplice, so we imported two doctors from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia," explaind Medak, concluding that currently, the biggest challenge is the promotion of health tourism, especially through the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ), for which it is necessary to significantly increase funds.

For more on Croatian tourism in the coronavirus era, follow our travel page.

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