In an interview, Domagoj Udiljak, CEO of the Assistant Health Tourism Industry Conference (HTI), explains how new technology, the demographic shift and the trend towards a healthy lifestyle are changing medical tourism, and highlights the growing importance of this segment for the tourism industry.
Medical tourism offers huge prospects for the global tourism industry. According to the latest report by VISA and Oxford Economics, current turnover in the world’s medical tourism industry is around 50 billion dollars. Over the next ten years annual growth in this sector is forecast to reach up to 25 per cent. This trend was mirrored at ITB Berlin 2018, which registered increased demand by international exhibitors in the Medical Tourism segment.
You were Medical Tourism partner of the ITB Berlin 2018. How successful was the fair for you?
Domagoj Udiljak: It was extremely important for us to present at ITB Berlin. After a successful conference in Zagreb, we had the opportunity to immediately announce the next HTI Conference edition that will be held 26-27 November 2018 in Brussels. We are launching a 24 hour condense concept during the European Tourism Day. We also presented a topic on ‘Croatia: medical wellness destination on the rise’ with ideas on improving medical health and the branding recommendations of the destination. There are geographic, historical and human resources assumptions that need to be aligned with market demands and ensure leadership in segments that Croatia has a chance due to the long tradition of spas, multiple resources, and modern high-quality services.
After the successful debut in 2017 ITB Berlin Medical Tourism continued to expand. How important is the segment for the tourism market in the future and what economic significance does it have?
Domagoj Udiljak: The world market is demanding not only in terms of development of the quality of healthcare, but also of a whole range of related services. Some rapid changes occur that will have strong consequences for the tourist segment that needs to adapt to changes in healthcare. New technology solutions are launched altering the future of treatment, but also the organizational structure and business processes in the healthcare system. Further advancements in telemedicine and robotics raise the level and efficiency of services. The availability of technology changes and the behaviour of patients in relation to their own health. Serious demographic changes will significantly affect the future of medical health.
Health-conscious travel has been increasing for years. What new developments and trends are in this growth market?
Domagoj Udiljak: Guests traveling because of their health are more demanding and the market should offer them superior service and differentiate themselves according to their increasingly sophisticated demands. According to the statistics wellness guest stay longer on average, so there is a constant need for a thoughtful offer. Such tourists are not a unique segment. Motivation that has a strong need for a healthy lifestyle creates a large number of market areas. The consumer-oriented trend towards healthy lifestyles must create an offer that identifies specific needs - programs that focus on healthy food, mental well-being, and relationship with nature. It is the business platform of the Energy Clinic chain, the largest wellness operator in Eastern Europe operating at 16 top hotels, continually planning new expansions.