A fascinating pilot survey in China by a New York university at the 6th Crikvenica International Health Tourism Conference on November 8, 2018 opens up an intriguing possibility for Croatian medical tourism. Small steps, but ones worth following up.
The more I get involved in the Croatian medical tourism story, the more fascinated I become. And the more I become convinced that Croatian medical tourism is the single most important sector for Croatia to be investing its time and marketing in. With so many competitive advantages, as we have previously discussed, the only thing that is holding Croatia back from this potentially billion-dollar industry, is local cohesion, a brand and a strategy and roadmap of how to get to the next level.
Yesterday, we touched on the views of various international participants of the conference, which included 18 high-quality speakers, all experts and market leaders in their medical tourism fields. You can read that article here, an article with a Malaysian feel after Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council CEO Sherene Azli’s eye-opening presentation on how Malaysia became the number one medical tourism destination in the world. We will publish an interview with Sherene shortly.
Although I knew that the Kvarner health cluster was the most progressive body in the emerging Croatian medical tourism industry, I will confess to being more than stunned at the quality of the speakers – both Croatian and international – as well as some of the very niche topics which were presented. Professor Christine A. Lai, from the State University of New York Buffalo State, for example, with a presentation entitled Understanding Chinese Perceptions Toward Croatian Medical Tourism.
The potential of the Chinese medical tourism market had already been touched upon during the Malaysian presentation, as Sherene pointed out some of the regional opportunities for Malaysia. With changes to China’s infamous one-child policy, there are now apparently over 40 million Chinese women over 40 (as I understood it) interested in IVF treatment. If Malaysia could position itself as the regional leader in that industry, Malaysia’s already booming health tourism industry would boom even more. But how could there be an opportunity for Croatian medical tourism with Chinese patients?
I sadly missed the opening of Professor Lai’s presentation as I was interviewing Sherine, but as I understood things, Professor Lai’s academic connections to China enabled a very limited modified Fishbein survey on perceptions of medical tourism destinations around the world. The sample size was small and very educated (young students), so there is no suggestion that this is a definitive study, but rather perhaps a seed worth planting to see if it could turn into something very solid indeed. As Professor Lai’s slides showed, Croatia is being discovered by a greater number of Chinese each year.
South Korea, Germany, USA, Japan and Croatia were included in the study. The most important factor in the study for Chinese respondents? Safety. One of Croatia’s strengths. Croatia, Full of Safe Places. Maybe time to make more of the branding of Ivan Vucetic from Hvar, the father of dactyloscopy…
So what are the attributes which are most important to this small educated Chinese sample? Scores above out of 5. Safety.
And from a medical tourism point of view? The requirements were understandably more stringent.
And then the big shock. Taking into consideration all the factors from safety to price in Japan, South Korea, Germany, USA and Croatia, there was only one clear winner – Croatia. And look how strongly Croatia performed on safety.
A summary of the scores.
It is too early to start building clinics in Zagreb and beyond for millions of incoming tourists to the Croatian medical tourism industry, but it is not too soon to start taking the findings of this very small sample and expanding it to see where this might lead. The perception of ‘safe’ in this increasingly troubled world, combined with strong medical reputation, great prices and a strong tourism offer, could well prove to be quite a bonanza for the Croatian medical tourism industry.
The Croatian National Tourist Board opened an office in Shanghai last week. One of the lessons from Malaysia which I will be looking at in my interview with Sherene Azli is the use of all Malaysian institutions to promote the medical tourism industry. The Malaysian Healthcare Tourism Council only has two offices abroad (from memory in Vietnam and Indonesia) – all the rest of the marketing is done through the network of offices of the Malaysian Tourist Board.
Imagine the same happened in Shanghai. Croatia, the safe European destination full of tourism, but also a destination for high-quality, affordable medical tourism.
Croatia could hit its goal of becoming a 12-month tourist destination quicker than planned if it plays its cards right.
The time for a big push on Croatian medical tourism is now.
To learn more about the Crikvenica International Health Tourism conference, click here.
To follow the latest on the Croatian medical tourism industry on TCN, click here.