What Is Holding Back Croatia’s Wellness Market?

Croatia has the opportunity to brand itself as a health destination. One key problem however is that many rehabilitation clinics are still state owned and the proposals for the privatisation of special hospitals and health resorts are not happening.

Croatian borders have opened to all countries. Visitors from the EU/EEA have no restriction and all others must provide proof of where they are staying, show a negative PCR test not older than 48 hours, and pass a PCR test at the border. Most thermal spas and pools are open.

Marcel Medak of the Health Tourism Association of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce believes that patient demand will fall for certain services, such as for the rehabilitation of chronic diseases, but that this offers these clinics an opportunity to turn to the wider health tourism market.

One key problem however is that many such clinics are still state owned and the proposals for the privatisation of special hospitals and health resorts, as in the Action Plan for the Development of Health Tourism in the Republic of Croatia prepared by the Institute for Tourism, is not happening.

Croatia is already known for quality wellness spas, but laws need changing to enable private entrepreneurs to enter the market more fully. Currently, spas and health resorts have to set aside part of their capacity for public health requirements, while the commercial parts are often under-used. Setting a new ratio between public and commercial capacities will be one of the biggest tasks, and will involve talks with unions of workers from the public health system.

Private businesses operating on the open market and financing their business from sales depend on the quality of their services, communication with the market and their innovation. Local professionals say that it is necessary to soften the borders between special hospitals, rehabilitation and wellness centres, to get closer to European standards of health tourism and provide guests with a modern service. Many of the facilities are old and of poor quality, with a service quality to match.

Health tourism has a priority role in developing Croatian tourism, but has suffered a heavy blow due to the coronavirus pandemic. That same pandemic may force more people to become much more aware of the importance of health, which could be a great advantage in the development of Croatia as a leading destination for health tourism in the future.

To target those that want to go to Croatia for dental treatment and health tourism, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Tourism has launched the EnterCroatia website to provide full information. The website is available in Croatian and English, and will soon be available in 10 other languages including German, Slovenian, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, and Polish.

Croatia also has a new promotional campaign “The Vacation You Deserve Is Closer Than You Think”, which was launched in key markets including Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czechia, Germany, Italy and Poland. The campaign includes intensive advertising on Facebook and Instagram, advertising on YouTube, adverts on some of the most-watched TV channels, most read portals and newspapers in each market and through outdoor advertising on billboards, city lights and digital panels. Promotional materials and ads created for advertising have been adapted to all six language variants. As part of the campaign, a promotional video of 30 and 15 seconds was created, used for advertising on both online and offline channels on these markets.

Markets that are primarily air destinations for Croatian tourism, such as the UK, Scandinavia, the USA, Canada, Australia China and South Korea, are being targeted through the campaign Enjoy The View From Croatia.