The largest number of Croatian spas, special hospitals that form the backbone of the spa part of health tourism, are located in the central part of Croatia. Their role is to be the initiators and backbones of the tourist offer in their destinations.
In the past, spa towns were centers of cultural, entertainment and political life. Their meaning has come to the fore especially after the pandemic, he reveals Marcel Medak, director of the Tourist Board of Bjelovar-Bilogora County.
The offer of health tourism within the Cluster of Central Croatia
As a health tourism specialist, long-time president of the Health Tourism Association at HGK and former director of Daruvar spa, member of ESPA and EHTTA international associations from the European area, our interlocutor is very relevant to the discussion on the topic of health tourism.
"The pandemic has put health in the foreground as a motive for travel, which I consider an exclusive opportunity for the revitalization of existing spas. But for this to happen, Croatian spas should be privatized along the lines of the Slovenian model", says Medak.
Our spas do not pay enough attention to preventive programs, additional offers and quality accommodation, which at the moment are not at the level to be serious competitors to developed tourist countries from the surrounding area, such as, for example, Slovenia, Hungary or Austria, he continues.
Medical tourism is at a high level, with dental tourism leading the way, while wellness tourism is limited exclusively to the offer of wellness programs in hotels and smaller wellness centers.
"A great opportunity is medical wellness, which can be carried out primarily in health institutions, but also in hotels, with the prerequisite that the programs are carried out under medical supervision, which is currently most feasible in spas.”, says this professor of kinesiology who received additional education at the Faculty of Management and Tourism in Opatija and obtained the title of specialist in health tourism at the post-graduate specialist studies.
"The biggest advantages of health tourism as a selective form over other forms of tourism, in my opinion, are the absence of seasonality, a significantly longer stay and the higher price of such services", he emphasizes.
This is not only an opportunity for the continent, he says, but a way that existing entities at sea, precisely by using seawater as a natural healing factor and the backbone of preventive and wellness programs, can - if they want - ensure year-round business.
"I also see a chance in connecting and joining international associations in order to gain and exchange experience and positive examples from practice. Thanks to my involvement in EHTTA, in addition to Daruvar, which has been in the association since 2011, the city of Varaždinske toplice and Lipik are also members today.", he states.
Internationally, from 2011 to the end of 2017, Medak was a member of the executive board of the EHTA (European Historical Thermal Town Association) in front of the town of Daruvar, and since 2019 he has been representing Croatia in the ESPA (European Spa Association) through HGK.