Croatia pinning hopes on vaccine for inbound travel

Speaking at the Crikvenica International Health Tourism Conference (CIHT), the Croatian Tourism Association said it was optimistic about the 2021 tourist season, thanks to news of COVID-19 vaccines. Germany’s announcement that it could vaccinate 70% of the population by the summer of 2021 has brought optimism to Croatia, as there are normally large numbers of German tourists and health tourists to the country. Could this help inbound medical travel too?

The CIHT Conference held online in early November discussed post-Covid health travel and confirmed that Croatia is ready for post-Covid patients.

The virtual edition achieved three thousand views and was organised by Crikvenica Tourist Board and Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster , with co-organisers Thalassotherapia Crikvenica, a medical rehabilitation hospital and Polyclinic Terme Selce, a clinic. Both are heavily involved in inbound medical tourism.

Croatia’s Minister of Tourism Nikolina Brnjac said; “Croatia’s strategic focus is on further developing health tourism, which has great potential for year-round tourism activity. Croatia has all the important comparative advantages for this tourism segment.”

Panellists discussed the effects of the pandemic, the current market situation, arising practices and opportunities in health travel, promotion and communication, and post-Covid times.

Professor Ivan Đikić suggested; “It is essential to promote the possibilities and quality of health tourism in the Kvarner region, but also in Croatia as a whole. In the future, health tourism will become one of the most profitable tourism segments in Croatia.”

Announcements about COVID vaccines have inspired optimism that tourism could begin to recover in the second quarter and then approach the numbers before the pandemic in the second half of 2021. 2021 will have the characteristics of last-minute reservations, an increase in online reservations, increased interest in higher category facilities that guarantee greater isolation of guests and that the key criterion for choosing a destination will be security.

For inbound medical travel to Croatia, IMTJ Editor in Chief Keith Pollard and speaker at the CIHT Conference, had some specific advice. “Rethink your target markets for international patients”, he said. “Patients will not travel as far, trust in your destination will be key, and assume a full recovery will only happen in 2022.”

Tourism in the country’s National Development Strategy 2030 is recognised as a strategic branch that stimulates the economy. The goal is to keep Croatia among the leading European tourist destinations in terms of safety, quality, added value, sustainability, and innovation.

The Croatian Tourism Association argues that the key to further development of tourism is to raise its international competitiveness and by defining a comprehensive approach on how to encourage increased investment and reduce barriers to investment in the hotel business.

The Croatian National Tourist Board has launched a promotional campaign ‘Thank you’ on social networks including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, where it thanks foreign tourists for choosing Croatia and Croatian destinations this year. The campaign has been implemented across 13 foreign markets, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Hungary, Belgium, France, Sweden, Switzerland and UK. The goal is to continue to maintain the visibility of Croatia in selected markets and in particular key markets of Germany, Slovenia, Poland and the Czech Republic.