The Kvarner region has long been enjoyed by health visitors, its beaches, spas and wonderfully mild year-round climate recognised for its health properties for almost 150 years. Ever since its natural potential was recognised as the perfect aid to help people recuperate and convalesce, the region has invested heavily in maintaining its first-class reputation as a centre of excellence in this field, from the spas it built over a hundred years ago to the finest quality healthcare facilities it constructed in the modern era.
Kvarner's aim is to be recognised once again as Europe's premier destination for medical, health and wellness tourism. In order to do so, can it take any tips from South East Asia and Malaysia in particular, one of the world leaders for growth in this sector?
Many believe it can, hence the invitation for Sherene Azli, CEO of Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council, to address Kvarner region's main annual event of the sector, the Crikvenica International Health Tourism conference. Azil's office oversees an industry in Malaysia which is experiencing globally recognised growth and success. Their national healthcare travel industry is growing at an average rate between 16 – 17 percent every year, against a global annual average of 12-14 percent. 'The exposure the Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster had received internationally in recent years for its healthcare and wellness facilities points to the potential it has to be a leading healthcare travel destination in Europe,' Azli told Time Out Croatia, clearly impressed by the facilities and initiatives she saw on her second visit here.
'The cluster is keen on promoting safe, high quality, and affordable treatments especially in dental and aesthetic surgery, orthopaedic, physical therapy, medical rehabilitation, specialist examinations, diagnostics, dialysis treatments, and more.' Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world where healthcare travel is a government supported industry, while being driven by the private sector. There is some way yet to go in Croatia for investments and strategy to stem from a streamlined and dedicated national body, as they do in Malaysia. But, within the sector of this region, Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster have seized the initiative in bringing together the collective strengths on offer in order to replicate the route taken in Malaysia.
Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster bridges the gap between Kvarner's world class health and wellness facilities, its internationally-linked transport infrastructure and its highly developed tourism industry, highlighting the region's bountiful offerings to a huge potential customer base. And well it might, for within just 400 kilometers of Kvarner live some 500 million Europeans whose healthcare may not always meet the same standard of excellence as seen in Kvarner and almost never competes with the fantastic prices available here. ‘Croatia is one of the top tourist destinations in the world,’ says Krešo Glavač, who as the Croatian ambassador to several South East Asian countries has seen first-hand the developments in the healthcare tourism sector in Malaysia and neighbouring countries. ‘Every year, tourists flock to Croatia for its beautiful views, sunsets, and historical value. Because of the tourists that visit, this country already has a global value.’ ‘One of the drivers for medical travel is the quality of healthcare and hospitality,’ he continues. ‘From my experience in Malaysia, medical tourists travel to countries which provide not only quality and affordable healthcare services, but also a comfortable experience. So, hospitals must provide strategies that promote a stress-free experience for the patient to attract more international patronage. As in every industry, success in the medical tourism industry depends on knowledge and proper execution of key strategies which must centre on the need of the prospective consumers. Building a viable medical tourism market, therefore, requires collaborations between the public and private healthcare sectors. Of course, marketing is the central factor for success in the health tourism industry.’
Croatia is one of the world's leading tourist destinations. Few haven’t heard of its stunning natural beauty and remarkably well-preserved ancient architecture. The fact it offers a world-class healthcare and wellness industry is less known.
The first-rate schools of medicine in the Kvarner region and its excellent private sector institutions make it a premier destination for healthcare tourists in Croatia. Combined with the region's time-honoured reputation for accommodating visitors and its transport accessibility, the region of Kvarner is one of the best options for healthcare and wellness tourism in Europe. There are few place in the world where you can recuperate with a backdrop as beautiful as this – and Malaysia is certainly one of them. But like Malaysia, besides its glistening beaches and spectacular scenery, people are slowly beginning to realise that Kvarner offers a whole lot more, including its potential to become one of the world’s most promising hubs for healthcare.