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. 


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. 


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. 


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.


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. 


- 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.


(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.


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

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


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.   

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Losinj Hotel Group Turns Towards Medical and Health Tourism

August the 18th, 2021 - One popular Losinj hotel group has made quite the serious turn towards the ever-lucrative and promising medical and health tourism sector, which is expected to come on leaps and bounds and rise in popularity in the post-pandemic world.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, with the aim of developing medical tourism, the Losinj hotel group Losinj Hotels & Villas in its Hotel Bellevue has opened up offices for four specialist medical fields - dermatologists, internists, gynecologists and orthopedists, as was reported by Jadranka Hotels.

The guests will be able to have access to the visiting doctor Vedran Franciskovic, university assistant professor and clinician, a specialist in gynaecology and obstetrics, as well as fetal medicine.

Davor Duvancic, a specialist in orthopedic surgery and traumatology who is also a spinal surgeon, who joined the expert team available to the guests of this Losinj hotel group's Bellevue Hotel.

Ana Ivekic Jambrosic, a specialist in dermatology and venereology, will be made available to patients for dermatological, dermatoscopic and venereological examinations, as well as for diagnostic services and the treatment of various skin diseases.

She also performs PRP stem cell therapy, aesthetic treatment for rejuvenation, Ultherapy - non-invasive skin tightening, minor surgical procedures and injection therapy. The team also includes the initiator of outpatient clinics in LH&V brand hotels, Anamarija Margan Sulc, an internal medicine specialist and a master of pharmacology.

''These renowned experts will provide services and implement health programmes using their experiences which are based on research into the health effects of the natural healing factors of the island of Losinj. With their engagement, Hotel Bellevue will be even more strongly positioned among guests who want to combine their time on holiday with medical treatments and stronger healthcare,'' they pointed out from Jadranka Hotels, a Losinj hotel group.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Health Tourism: Rijeka’s Rident Clinic Wins EMT Award for Patient Group Work

ZAGREB, 4 July, 2021 - The Rident dental clinic from Rijeka has won an award as the best European clinic for patient group work at the 5th European Medical Tourism (EMT) conference in Abano Terme, Italy, held earlier this week.

The conference was an opportunity for travel agencies and tour operators to link up with spas, clinics and hospitals from around the world. The attendance of Croatian participants was organised by the Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster in cooperation with the Kvarner Tourist Board.

Rident Clinic was established in Rijeka in 2004, and has a branch office in Poreč. It has 38 dental medicine surgeries, three dental medicine laboratories, 36 dentists, 45 dental assistants, 68 dental technicians, four medical radiology engineers, and more than 60,000 patients a year.

Apart from Rident, Poliderma Clinic from Zagreb has also won an EMT award, the Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster said. This clinic will soon open its branch at the Ambassador Hotel in Opatija.

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

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Saturday, 13 March 2021

Croatia Wins Medical Tourism Award at ITB Berlin Tourism Fair

March 13, 2021 – Good news comes from the world's leading tourism fair ITB Berlin, as Croatia wins medical tourism award!

Together with 18 Croatian co-exhibitors, the Croatian National Tourist Board (CNBT) presented the Croatian tourist offer at the virtual edition of the world's leading tourist fair ITB in Berlin. For the first time after 50 years, the fair was held via the online platform ITB Berlin NOW.

As part of the fair, Croatia also won the special ITB Medical Tourism Destination Award, awarded for the first time by ITB with the HTI Conference's (Health Tourism Industry) support.

The organizers recognized Croatia as an innovative and sustainable destination that provides a high level of medical tourism experience and services. Over 250 thousand guests visit Croatia annually for medical tourism, which confirms this recognition. Romeo Draghicchio, Director of the CNTB Representation in Germany, accepted the award. The award will, among other things, be an additional motivation in further medical tourism development in Croatia.

"By participating in the ITB Berlin fair, we maintain Croatia's presence and visibility in our traditionally most important German market. We also maintain business contacts and relationships with key partners, agents, tour operators, airlines. Despite the current situation, we believe that the easing of restrictions will normalize the tourist traffic, and many Germans will place their trust in Croatia this year as well. This is supported by the recent inclusion of four Croatian counties on the list of safe regions by the German Robert Koch Institute, making Istria the only safe sea region in the Mediterranean. Also, the largest German airline Lufthansa announced to increase the number of flights to Croatia in the coming period," said CNTB director Kristjan Staničić.

The fair was held from March 9 to 12, 2021. The Croatian delegation held a series of online meetings with representatives of major agencies, tour operators, and other partners such as DER Touristik, Schauinsland, Eurowings, BBC, Amadeus (one of the world's strongest companies for new technologies in tourism), Holliday Pirates (large booking travel platform), and others.

During the meetings, the partners stressed that they expect a better tourist season than last year.

"Although the period of intensive booking is just ahead of us, partners in the German market have been noticing an increase in interest in travel since mid-February compared to previous periods. They are especially interested in the arrangements for the Easter holidays and spring, with an emphasis on Istria, for which restrictions and quarantine measures have been lifted when passengers return to Germany," said Draghicchio.

Along with the Croatian National Tourist Board as the leading exhibitor, the Croatian stand also presented co-exhibitors, including the tourist boards of Dubrovnik-Neretva County, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb, as well as Croatia Airlines, Jadrolinija, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Valamar, Maistra, Uniline, Laguna Novigrad (Aminess Hotels & Campsites), Liburnia Riviera Hotels, ID Riva, Abacus, Ban Tours, Perfecta Travel, Sunturist, Unlimited Croatia DMC, and Via Mea Travel.

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Sunday, 17 May 2020

When Will Health Tourism Resume in Croatia? Italians Eager to Travel for Services

May 17, 2020 - After health tourism came to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic, the owners of dental offices and polyclinics in Croatia are waiting for the borders to open again. The return of guests from abroad is also desired by other health care institutions that realize part of their income from the provision of services to foreign clients, such as cosmetic surgeons or spas.

Novi List reports that it is estimated that the daily consumption of wellness users last year was almost 150 euro, in spa tourism 60 euro, and in medical tourism 240 euro. According to official estimates, health tourism brings in about 500 million euro a year, and mostly hosts residents of Germany, Slovenia, Austria and Italy. As it turned out, the Croatian border today is no longer an obstacle to the arrival of foreign clients who are interested in dental implants or breast augmentation, because, in principle, anyone who books a hotel room can enter the country. But the Italian border, for example, is still closed, while most other countries still have rules stricter than ours. The largest number of clients of dental institutions in the Primorje-Gorski Kotar and Istria counties come from Italy.

"We had to cancel a number of appointments in the last two months, and the situation became more complicated for our clients during that time. We are waiting every moment for the borders to open, and according to the information we have, they are ready and eagerly waiting to come," says Zeljko Miljanic, the founder and owner of the Rident Polyclinic.

It is customers from Italy who make up 90 percent of their customers. Due to the closure of the borders, 210 employees in the three polyclinics have been at home for two months, on hold, hoping that the borders will finally open. So far, says Miljanic, they have managed to get through this time without firing any employees, but if something does not change soon, it will not last long. "And the includes maintenance and investment are extremely large for us," he points out.

"As health tourism, we are the second most profitable activity in the county, and I hope that the local self-government will start thinking about the fact that many people will depend on us, on the tax and surtax we pay," says Miljanic.

He hopes that the Italians will get permission from their authorities to leave the country in June, which would allow our entrepreneurs in the field of dental tourism to continue working. The Croatian Chamber of Dental Medicine (HKDM) says that the resumption of work with foreign clients will not happen overnight, but they expect things to return to normal gradually.

"Given the dynamics of the gradual, phased withdrawal of protective measures in Croatia, as in other European Union countries, we expect an adequate gradual return to everyday life, which includes the provision of comprehensive dental care in dental offices to foreign nationals. Providing these services to the extent we had before the pandemic was declared will certainly not be overnight, but the quality dental services provided by foreign patients in our surgeries will continue to be interesting for foreign patients, who we believe will continue to show interest in dental tourism services in Croatia," says the President of the Chamber, Hrvoje Pezo. He points out that the maximum caution and protection of both the foreign patient and the dental service provider is extremely important.

The protocol of treatment is elaborated in detail, so the rules of conduct and personal protection are well known when you come to the dental practice. At the Rident Polyclinic, they point out that they had extremely high standards of protection even before the coronavirus epidemic, which is confirmed by the fact that despite the large number of clients from Italy, they did not have a single case of coronavirus infection just before the border closed.

"Back in February, we had clients from the zones in Italy that were most affected by the infection. Despite that, no dentist has contracted COVID," Miljanic points out.

Today, the rules for crossing the Croatian state border are such that for a foreign citizen to enter the country, it is advisable to contact the border police by e-mail, if a person wants to be sure that he will not be banned from entering Croatia. The Chamber points out that their members are ready to help their clients in this.

"Dental doctors are ready to help foreigners in collecting the necessary documentation related to entering Croatia for the purpose of providing dental care. However, the details of crossing the border, as well as countries in transit, need to be elaborated in more detail and certainly enable the simplest possible entry procedure, which in accordance with EU directives ensures free migration of EU citizens and citizens of other countries," says Pezo.

The coronavirus pandemic has taught people to be careful, and the question is how many Italians will go to the dentist in another country during a pandemic, albeit on a much smaller scale than a month or two ago. As in general tourism, caution could significantly reduce the number of foreigners coming to Croatia. The Chamber of Dental Medicine is aware of this problem, but still believes that the interest of foreign clients will not be absent.

"At this moment, it is necessary to create preconditions for the re-migration of patients, both Croatian and foreign citizens. European Union countries are cautiously withdrawing protective measures that will rekindle the interest of foreign clients, since Croatia is an interesting destination, and the dental services themselves are at an extremely high level of quality, which foreign patients have recognized," says Pezo.

He adds that the chamber has developed professional guidelines for full-scale work during the coronavirus pandemic, which guarantees maximum protection for all patients.

In the last two months, the Chamber has continuously cooperated with the Crisis Headquarters at the Ministry of Health, and as a professional organization of dentists, dental technicians and dental assistants, pointed to professional guidelines based on scientific knowledge and experience in the everyday practice of dental practices. "All decisions of the Crisis Headquarters were implemented at the county level, where, in only a few cases, the organization of dental work was specific. In an effort to help its members, the chamber gave its suggestions in writing, which were accepted by these counties," they point out.

The losses in health tourism are huge, as in other parts of the economy. In dental tourism, the drop in traffic is up to 100 percent. The economic aid measures adopted by the Government, including dental medicine, will, they say, alleviate the financial difficulties of dentists and dental technicians, but they hope that there will soon be economic growth in their business.

"Losses in dental tourism are 100 percent, which is why the Chamber is cooperating intensively with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Tourism on the reactivation of dental tourism, because health tourism, due to its advantages, could be a lever for tourism in Croatia," Pezo said. The advantages of health tourism are related to the fact that there is no seasonality, so it is tourism that is current throughout the year, patients are tied to one place, or to the health institution they come to, can be kept under health supervision. A special advantage is that health professionals who provide health services have professional knowledge and appropriate education and can adequately take care of all necessary protective measures, according to the Chamber of Dental Medicine.

Cosmetic surgery is in a slightly more favorable position, which depends to a much lesser extent on foreign clients. At the Zoran Žgaljardić Center for Aesthetic Surgery, foreign patients make up only 20 to 30 percent of the total clientele. Despite this, they hope to return to 'normal' as soon as possible so that they can work at full capacity.

"There are interested parties whose operations were canceled last month and the month before last, and now they are calling to schedule a new appointment," says Žgaljardić, who is not convinced that opening the borders will quickly normalize and foreigners rush to our clinics.

"People have no fear if things are regulated. If we open the borders, a foreigner who wants to come to our clinic will receive an invitation letter for surgery, and then he will solve the rest in his country," explains the cosmetic surgeon.

He believes that the return of clients from neighboring countries will not happen so fast.

"People will be scared because things are not clear until the end. Each of us in this situation will have some priorities and security put in the first place, and something will be postponed for later," he believes.

But safety reasons, in his opinion, should not be an obstacle for someone to decide on an aesthetic procedure, without fear of infection.

"If you have a man who is healthy and if the instructions are followed, the chances of something happening are minimal. Our client, if he comes from abroad, gets in the car, crosses the border, has an operation, returns home. It is a closed story, the possibility of infection is reduced to a minimum. But people need to be aware that they need to be careful," he points out. He noticed that people in our country have become quite free, relaxed, and act as if it is not an epidemic. He is not very happy with that, because there is always a risk of the virus coming back.

"Some people relax and think it's not like that, but it is, no matter what they think about it. Some of us think it’s stupid to wear a mask, but I, as a doctor, don’t think so until a vaccine or cure is found. Everyone should think for themselves and take the strictest measures, that is the only thing that is intelligent in this situation,"  Žgaljardić points out.

In his clinic, they apply all prescribed protection measures, from disinfection to masks and visors. Visors are used in surgical procedures, especially the anesthesiologist during intubation, while he, as the doctor at the examination, wears only a mask.

"We start from the assumption that we work with a healthy person. We could also test our patients, but realistically he can get infected a few hours later. Testing is relative proof that a person is healthy," explains Žgaljardić. Ultimately, he adds, a patient can also be infected, but does not have to pass the disease on to anyone if everyone is properly protected.

Although cosmetic surgery is a branch of health tourism that could potentially suffer more than others, because it does not seem to be a priority, this interlocutor claims that this cannot be seen as such, and that the issue of cosmetic surgery and its urgency is very individual.

"Being a reward for some is a priority for others. Some people will never come to me, they will think it’s stupid, and others will. Physical disability is not an upgrade, it makes a person depressed, it brings with it another issue. Just because something is beauty-related doesn’t mean it has no basis for health. It is not, of course, cancer, but there are many other similar procedures on the body that do not have to be done, and they are important to people," Žgaljardić illustrates and announces that he is resuming his activity at a slow pace and with great caution.

"This year, we are all trying to survive, to stay afloat, and at the same time, we live in optimism," he concludes.

To read more about business in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Marvie Hotel, For a Healthy and Happy Holiday in Split

February 10, 2020 - Recover, reshape, and recharge at Marvie Hotel & Health in Split. 

Wellness is the ‘active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life’. 

The World Health Organisation considers it “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being,” while it is "a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential” by The National Wellness Institute.

With more stressors surrounding us today than ever before, wellness has become the focal point that aids us through the day-to-day. Whether we turn to meditation, yoga, skincare or eating better, wellness shows its face in many ways and comes in a selection of shapes and sizes. 

Travelers today are increasingly turning away from the busier tourist cities and instead opting for wellness breaks, healing retreats, or spa getaways to help improve their physical or mental health. With that idea in mind, wellness tourism has taken off. 

Thus, in the heart of Split, you’ll find a hub for health and wellness - Marvie Hotel. 

Marvie_hotel room.jpg

After opening its doors in 2017, Marvie became Dalmatia’s first hotel focusing on medical tourism, targeting quality self-care in all of its segments. 

Located in Split's quiet residential area of Zenta, just a five-minute drive from the bustling city center, Marvie is spacious and modern, boasting an underground garage on three floors, 74 rooms and two suites, and modular halls that can accommodate up to 65 people. 

However, what truly makes Marvie the heart of medical tourism in Split is its health and wellness offer. 

The Renevie wellness zone is where guests can recover, reshape, and recharge. With relaxation at its core, the Renevie wellness zone offers an indoor hot tub and pool, as well as an outdoor rooftop infinity pool that boasts breathtaking views of the city. In the summer, the rooftop becomes an oasis for guests looking to enjoy the easygoing Mediterranean lifestyle, where sunbeds are offered for you to kick back with a cold drink and light snacks, while summer yoga sessions and exercise programs are held to encourage the more active vacationers. 

Marvie_rooftop joga.jpg

The Renevie wellness zone offers two private saunas that provide a variety of ways to rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit. The Finnish sauna is for those looking to detox or enhance their skin elasticity, while the Turkish sauna benefits the immune system and helps with hydration. A fully equipped gym is also available for guests looking to push their fitness limits. 

AquaMed Medical Wellness, which is a modern clinic for physical medicine and rehabilitation, is a fundamental part of Marvie’s wellness offer. With a focus on physical therapy, manual therapy using the Maitland concept, hydrotherapy pool exercises, massages (medical, sport, AquaMed, aroma, anti-cellulite), beauty treatments, acupuncture and nutritional counseling, AquaMed aims to prevent and eliminate health and aesthetic challenges, while preserving your power and beauty.


Whether you require a physician, acupuncturist, nutritionist, masseuse, beautician, or pedicurist, Marvie’s specialists provide a full range of physical therapy and aesthetic services for guests to enjoy. 

Because Mediterranean cuisine is a vital organ to the region, Marvie fuses fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients with a scientific approach to ensure your dietary needs are fulfilled. Whether you have a specific medical condition or are looking to detox and adopt healthier eating habits, Marvie’s nutritional experts will craft plans tailored to your wishes. 

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The Da’Mar restaurant at the hotel adds a modern touch to Mediterranean-inspired dishes, which are adjusted to service the gluten-free guests. Everything at the hotel, from light bites to dessert, is prepared fresh and in house daily. 

Finally, what completes Marvie is its partners. 

The Mediderm clinic at Marvie, which is led by dr. med. Sanda Peric-Susak, boasts twenty years of experience and specializes in dermatovenerology and anti-aging treatments. Their team of experts focuses on aesthetic and vascular surgery, immunology, endocrinology, allergology, orthopedics, and sports traumatology. Whether you’re looking to reduce the signs of aging or want a clearer picture of your overall health, the Mediderm clinic is at your service to ensure your body is taken care of. 


Therapists Vanja and Kristijan Kasalo are on hand to look after your mental health. After years of experience from Split to Norway and back, their private practice of integrative psychotherapy will give you professional insight and offer techniques to help you maintain a healthy mindset.

IDC Ruzevic, on the other hand, is the most modern facility for dental medicine and implantology in Dalmatia. Led by Niki Ruzevic, M.D., who boasts 35 years of experience as a dentist and more than 15 years of experience in implantology, its modern facilities include four dental offices, a surgical room, a sterilization room and an X-ray area. Offering a range of treatments for your oral health, IDC Ruzevic uses sophisticated methods, premium materials, and modern devices to care for each patient individually. 

With a full range of quality services on offer for its guests, there is no better way to optimize your well-being than at Marvie Hotel. 

You can find out more about Marvie Hotel here.

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Interview with Tomislav Buljubašić, Owner of Dioklecijan Hotel&Residence in Split

After finishing his education in business administration and international business and management at the prestigious Webster University in Vienna, Tomislav Buljubašić came back to Split to manage the first categorised medical hotel - the Dioklecijan Hotel and Residence in Split.

While studying in Vienna, he worked on his father's luxurious yacht, Seagull, which he says was one of his first experiences with tourism on a more exclusive level. Their guests were wealthier, often powerful people from all over the world and from different niches. He says that this job prepared him for what was to come, how to deal with the more demanding customers, and how to always provide the best possible service. It also helped teach him how to work with colleagues and how important it is to have professionals working with you every day.

He enjoyed Vienna but decided to come back home to Split. Both private and business reasons factored into that decision, as he believed that there was a lot of potential in Croatia to create something new or improve the already existing facilities. His father was just finishing his investment into the facility he's managing now, so that also helped Tomislav Buljubašić make that decision.

As soon as he graduated, he acquired the hotel from his father, and of course, he didn't have the means to buy it outright, so his father's equity will be paid from the hotel's income. Their business deal was simple and follows the old maxim; short reckonings make long friends. Both he and his sister were raised to aspire to greater things, to want to create on their own, not just enjoy the success of their parents. He adds that he'd never say that he started from the bottom, as that would not be true, but that he has proven himself anyway.

His upbringing prepared him for his entry into the business world, but still, he was not aware of the complexity of the project when he took it over. Now he admits that his father was also brave to allow him to manage the hotel at such a young age.

In addition to the hotel, he manages the Split House of Health (Splitska kuća zdravlja, SKZ), a multifunctional facility which brings together tourism and health. There are several prestigious clinics and doctors' offices there: Akromion Hospital, Bagatin Clinic, a Hydrotherapy Centre, a Pediatric Clinic, the Dr. Željko Roje Clinic, the Dermalis Clinic, and Dioklecijan Hotel&Residence. The project was envisioned by his father, Juroslav Buljubašić, who believed that the fast-growing trend of medical tourism could come to Croatia as well.

Tomislav Buljubašić explains that medical tourism is an extremely important aspect of tourism, as it brings in higher income because those are the services of higher value.

It is not limited by seasons, weather and summer - and those tourists prefer coming out of season. Croatia is still behind some other destinations in this tourism niche, but there are bright examples, especially in the dental tourism field in Istria and Kvarner, but there's room for improvement.

The potential is vast, and much more work needs to be done to fully develop that potential. Croatia needs to be branded as an ideal destination for this type of tourism. We can already start working on that branding with the tourists who come to Croatia these days, as the message needs to be delivered to them about Croatia as a medical and health tourism destination. We have highly respected experts, high-end institutions and specialised hospitals, great accommodation, natural beauty, gastronomy and other tourism content and that's what can make Croatia a popular destination in that field.

One of the problems is the chronic lack of educated personnel in tourism, even in the situation where they make more and more money each year.

However, that does not seem to be enough, as there just aren't enough educated staff for Croatian tourism. A temporary solution is to import workers, but the long-term solution needs to be in finding a way to bring more people back, by lowering taxes on what they make. It's a great loss for Croatia when the people we educated leave and showcase their potential elsewhere because they can't find work here that would pay what he or she deserves. We can turn that trend around with tax reductions, which will lead to satisfied workers and satisfied guests, says Tomislav Buljubašić.

The other problem is that some of the tourism workers can't be educated properly in Croatia, because the schools don't have some of the necessary programs.

For instance, the Croatian school system does not allow a person becoming a chambermaid to learn about the hotel system, maintaining a facility etc. Many positions are like that, where people educate themselves while already working on the job. The situation is different elsewhere in the world, and in Croatia, some schools would like to make that possible, but they're struggling with the infrastructure, the students avoid practical education and there's a negative perception of some jobs in the hospitality business.

Therefore, the entire education of the workforce is placed on the employers, leaving them to educate in order to have good workers.

To learn more about the Entrepreneurial Mindset conference, click here.
Thursday, 9 May 2019

ESPA Conference: Health Tourism Seen as a Chance to Extend Tourist Season

ZAGREB, May 9, 2019 - Health tourism is a great opportunity for Croatia to extend the tourist season, increase its off-season services and attract higher-profile tourists, it was said on Thursday at the formal opening of the annual meeting of the European Spas Association (ESPA), the umbrella organisation that promotes health tourism, which is taking place in the north-western spa town of Tuhelj until May 10.

The conference has brought together representatives of 21 European countries who will be discussing the latest trends and innovation in health tourism. The event was co-organised by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) in partnership with the Croatian National Tourism Board (HTZ).

It was said that health tourism was the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry, growing at an annual rate of between 15 and 20 percent.

HTZ director Kristjan Staničić said he was confident that health tourism would grow considerably in the years ahead and that Croatia could definitely be competitive in this sector. He said that health tourism did not depend on the sun and sea and could help extend the tourist season, both along the Adriatic coast and in continental Croatia.

Citing the TOMAS Summer 2017 survey, Staničić said that seven percent of tourists visiting Croatia did so for health reasons and eight percent to visit spas.

Dragan Kovačević, the HGK vice-president for agriculture and tourism, said that health tourism was a great opportunity for Croatia to increase its tourist services in the off-season, adding that a mild climate and the high quality of health services were the country's advantages in that regard.

Assistant tourism minister Olivera Šarić that 15 percent of all tourist travels were motivated by health reasons. She said that the potential for the development of health tourism as a year-round business was extraordinary and that health tourism was included in the Croatian Tourism Development Strategy until 2020, noting health tourists spent between 20 and 30 percent more than the average.

The ESPA conference is taking place under the motto "Secrets of life balance - A life full of well-being". It will discuss new trends and innovations through presentations of best practice and new market niches in spa and wellness tourism. ESPA Innovation Awards will be presented for innovation and excellence in providing medical spa services.

More health tourism news can be found in the Travel section.

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