Croatia focuses on health tourism

Attendees stretch in the sun… in Terme Tuhelj, Croatia

The espa Congress was held in Croatia’s biggest thermal and spa resort – Terme Tuhelj – from May 8 to 10 and TTN was invited. Terme Tuhelj is located on the very source of thermal water and medicinal mud, and surrounded by green hills and beautiful scenery, only 40 kilometres from Zagreb – the perfect location for a health and wellness meet of this scale.

In its 24th year, this year’s ESPA Congress was organised in co-operation with the Croatian Chamber of Economy and Croatian National Tourist Board. 

The ESPA Congress is the largest event of the European Spa Association (ESPA), and brings together ESPA members and partners, health tourism experts, thermal water providers and other healing factors, marketing educators and health care providers, as well as journalists.

ESPA, founded in 1995 in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of European health tourism, which gathers and lobbies for a 21-member state, as well as clusters, regional associations and cities of the spa, institutes for research and education institutions.

The event brings together representatives of these European countries and this year, hosted guests from USA, China, Russia and the Middle East. The aim of the event was to accompany new trends and innovations in the field of health tourism through the presentation of best practices and new niche markets in spa, wellness and wellness tourism.

The congress was held under the slogan of "Secrets of Life Balance - a Life Full of Well Being" and aimed to exchange experiences, new methods and tools in marketing, knowledge on innovation, education and market research, as well as business networking and health care improvements  through  health  tourism  that  generates  guests  through  all  four  seasons. It also included education through professional topics that can prevent health problems through nutrition, relaxation and hobbies.

"Health tourism is seen as a great opportunity for strengthening the supply chain, extending the tourist season and attracting guests of greater pay power. In order to achieve greater competitiveness of Croatian health tourism, it is crucial to intensify marketing activities in order to strengthen the image of Croatia as a destination for health tourism. Another thing is new investments, new construction and renewal of existing capacities. In this way, we are approaching the ability to acquire international certificates, which is the key to increasing the number of foreign guests,” said vice-president of the Croatian Chamber of Economy for Tourism Dragan Kovačević on opening the Congress.

"Health tourism is the fastest growing part of the tourism industry, growing annually at a rate of 15 to 20 per cent. In this segment, Croatia has an exceptionally strong resource base and a rich tradition. It is a product that is not related to the sun and the sea and which as such strongly influences the extension of the tourist season, both on the coast and on the continent. I'm sure of the positive effects of the ESPA conference that brought together many foreign experts who will exchange good practices with their Croatian counterparts when it comes to this kind of tourist offer," said director of Croatian National Tourist Board Kristjan Staničić.

According to a summer 2017 survey, 7 per cent of tourists visited Croatia motivated by health reasons.

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

A press trip followed the congress over four days and saw us visit the best Croatian health tourism stakeholders and clinics in Zagreb, Krapina-Zagorje County in northwest part of the country and Kvarner region on the coast. Details of this trip along with further details about the European health tourism market will be revealed in TTN’s health and wellness focus this August.