At the CIHT 2018 conference in Crikvenica, TCN talked with Keith Pollard, editor-in-chief of the Journal of International Medical Travel, about the potentials of Croatian health tourism.One of the many prominent Croatian and foreign speakers at this year’s International Conference on Health Tourism in Crikvenica was Keith Pollard, editor-in-chief of the most influential media in the health tourism sector, the Journal of International Medical Travel (IMTJ). TCN talked to Keith about Croatia’s potential in the field of health tourism after his interesting lecture at a conference entitled “How to develop a medical travel strategy for hospitals and clinics.”Can you give us some advice for the development of health tourism in Croatia? Where can we look for the best examples and in which part of the market can Croatia really compete with the competition?First I would say that there is a lot of marketing noise related to this sector. Everyone thinks they can do medical tourism, but if you want to know which is the best country you could learn from, then this is Malaysia.Malaysia is undoubtedly a country that has succeeded. IMTJ awards prizes, and Malaysia has won the Destination of the Year award three times in four years. For some reason, perhaps because of their culture, they have managed to join forces of all institutions and stakeholders. I was there and got to know their process, that’s the real thing.You get off the plane and are immediately greeted by a lady with your name on them. Sherene (Azli, above, Director General of the Malaysian Health Travel Council, who also spoke at the conference) has about 35 employees and has really invested a lot in the process. It can be seen that the work is working. Another thing Malaysia is good at is measuring results. They do this because the state requires them to provide data. This is also the case in Dubai, where the requirements are similar.There is nothing like it in Croatia.Croatia is very similar to Spain, which is a significantly similar destination. There the state invested some money, but recklessly and inefficiently. The key thing was in the individuals who head the clinics. This is what drives their medical tourism. There are entrepreneurs with reasonable marketing and a sense of business who see the opportunity and then make excellent use of it. This entrepreneurial spirit is also emerging in Croatia, and the most prominent example is the Bagatin Polyclinic. Ognjen Bagatin is one of the most enterprising people in this country.Keith Pollard from IMTJ is one of the six CIHT ambassadors whom the Kvarner Health Cluster thanked at the opening of the conference / Photo: CIHT Conference Crikvenica CroatiaKeith Pollard, IMTJ: Croatia could also learn from HungaryCroatia could also learn from Hungary, which has developed its dental tourism. These are seven clinics that have joined forces. The state did nothing. These seven clinics merged, founded the Association of Hungarian Dental Clinics, and set standards for what members would offer to foreign patients. And so patients today have a very good experience in Hungary.Patients are warmly welcomed at the airport, and the hotels are adapted for dental patients, with special menus. In some hotels, more than half of the guests are patients from one of these seven clinics. It all started with a gathering of like-minded business people who saw the potential of the whole story. The Creative Dental Clinic in Budapest is one of the best examples. It is a specially built seven-storey building, with 15 dentists, a laboratory and an internet cafe on the roof. Articles about them from the world media are displayed on the walls. Really impressive.What is the difference between the quality of dental services in Croatia and Hungary?I don’t think there is any difference. Hungary did great in the UK 10 to 15 years ago because there was a huge shortage of dentists there. Dentists were found in two countries – Hungary and Poland. The British healthcare system has employed hundreds of dentists, and this has certainly helped Hungary, as British patients have become accustomed to Hungarian dentists.What is the problem with the fact that Croatia has so few flights of low-cost airlines, compared to, for example, Budapest?I always fly British Airways, so it’s not a problem for me, but the truth is that Zagreb fails to take advantage of the opportunities offered by low-budget carriers. Wizzair, easyJet – that’s the big difference.18 million tourists come to Croatia every year. If only one percent of them solved their dental or vision problem during the holidays, that would be 180,000 patients a year. I wouldn’t do that while they are on vacation. I do not understand why Croatia does not advertise its health tourism better. The data is crucial, and you have all the possible data about all these tourists. During the peak season, four million people come in a month, and then that drops to 300.000 a month in January, which is why everything is closed in the winter.There is a whole market of tourists who adore Croatia, and who probably don’t even think of grooming their teeth in Croatia. In their minds, there is no connection between Croatia as a summer destination and Croatia as an affordable solution for obtaining quality health care. Crikvenica is beautiful in November. Let tourists return here out of season for health services.You have so many of these positive-minded, easily accessible consumers. You don’t even have to attract a lot of them – let them come back here in February.Ognjen Bagatin, Polyclinic Bagatin / Photo: CIHT Conference Crikvenica CroatiaWhere will Croatia be on the map of medical tourism in ten years?It could – if it really starts – take over 25% of the Hungarian dental traffic, provided that forces join forces and things are set up properly. I see no reason why that should not happen. I often come here and I really like Croatia.How much is the dental market worth in Hungary?I don’t know the exact amount, but I do know that one clinic has 800 patients a month who spend an average of about 5000 euros. I also know how much they spend on marketing. But it’s just one of those big clinics. Calculate for yourself. How much do they spend per month on Adwords advertising? A lots of. And they are very good at targeting a certain audience – one of their main markets is Finland, for example. Finns, British, Irish, Germans and other Scandinavians. Advertising in Finland is completely different. They sponsor concerts in various targeted cities to make them heard. And more than impressive./ / / /A lot of lessons could be learned in Crikvenica. Thanks to Keith for his time. A country of excellence to learn from – Malaysia. Far closer market from which to learn and with which we can compete – dental tourism in Budapest.Author: Paul Bradbury, Total Croatia News ENG Version /// CROATIAN HEALTH TOURISM: Interview with IMTJ Editor Keith Pollard in Crikvenica RELATED NEWS: HEALTH TOURISM/ / / IT IS TIME FOR US TO START SERIOUS TOURISM SERIOUSLY AND STRATEGICALLY/ / / DR. MILJENKO BURA: WITHOUT QUALITY AND PRESENT HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE WE CANNOT BUILD A YEAR-OLD TOURISM/ / / NEVENKA KOVAČ, SB MEDICO: WE HAVE A LOT OF STORIES ABOUT STRATEGIES AND POSSIBILITIES OF HEALTH TOURISM, AND TOO MUCH WORK IS IN THE FIELD
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