Baltic and GUAM countries co-operating on health tourism

 

Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have got together with GUAM countries: Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova to see how they can co-operate on health tourism.

All are latecomers to the scene and have more to offer on health, wellness and spa tourism than on medical tourism. But they are also countries where overheads are low, so keeping prices affordable for people who may not be able to afford Western European prices.

Their locations and historic links also mean they have better access to the booming medical tourism markets of China and Russia, with most having the huge advantage of having many Russian speakers.

Jurgita Kazlauskiene of the Lithuanian Resorts Association sees that to develop health tourism in the Baltic states, the role of spas is vital, “Key to success will be how to run and promote joint projects between Baltic and GUAM countries and their customers. Also important is how to ensure sustainable development of tourism and how to increase the role of tourism of the economies of the regions.”

As well as local Baltic/GUAM cross border co-operation, the region has to consider if there is any potential or impact in European Council rules on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare. When looking at cooperation in health care and health tourism, regional cooperation is vital for small EU countries.

Local health resorts help cut costs in the health system. Each euro spent on medical rehabilitation saves three Euros that would otherwise have to be spent on conventional medicine such as pharmaceuticals. After staying in a health resort, patients take less medicine, visit the doctor less often, and are less absent from work.

Cooperation between the Baltic states on health tourism is important due to geographic location, a mild climate, and that there are no cultural or language barriers. This cooperation has been successful for many years by carrying out a number of regional projects, but all the counties are looking at promoting a Baltic wellness concept.

The countries have an unofficial Baltic medical tourism cluster. Acknowledging that the internal market of each country is small and internal consumption is low, there is mutual understanding that it is necessary to specialize in certain areas and services, and that there is a need to develop new products that could be marketed together in larger markets, such as Germany, Norway and the UK. Specialization or offering of tailor-made products is one of the key factors to stay unique and maintain the quality of services.

National rehabilitation centre Vaivari in Latvia has signed a medical export cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Health of Azerbaijan.Vaivari has already received the first 30 patients from Azerbaijan, with the launch of a new rehabilitation programme. Every year Vaivari gets 3500 patients for rehabilitation and health treatment, one third of these patients are children. The target for 2013 is to provide health rehabilitation for 4000 patients within the same financial funding.

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