Medical tourism development in the Balkans: Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania

 

Romanian medical tourism saw 60,000 foreign arrivals in 2011, with dental, ophthalmic and cosmetic surgery services being the most sought after, says Emilian Imbrifrom of the Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism, “Most came at the recommendation of friends. People sought cosmetic surgery, dentistry, ophthalmology, cardiac prostheses, and orthopedic prosthetic services.” Although claimed as medical tourism numbers, it is highly probable that this mixes both medical tourism and health tourism. The ministry is fuzzy on how it defines medical/health tourism, and how it calculates those numbers.

Tourist packages combining travel and medical treatment will be on offer from mid-2012. Romania is also a leading international destination for natural spa treatment. Romania is unknown to much of the world, despite offering mud baths, thermal water baths, mineral baths and asthma therapy in natural salt caves.

In Split, the first medical tourism centre in Croatia should be completed in the second half of this year. This luxury accommodation aimed at retirees from overseas will include clinics with diagnostic and specialist centres. Users will have a restaurant, an internet corner, a piano and lounge bar, a cinema and a library. On the roof there will be a green oasis with a promenade, an outdoor swimming pool with a sundeck and a wellness and fitness centre. The residence will have 54 accommodation units, 40 rooms and 14 suites, with an option to rent them out for the period of five days to 99 years, and will be able to accommodate up to 100 people, The seven-storey building will have an underground garage with 105 parking spaces and several business premises – a shop, a bank and a gift shop. The new retirement health tourism centre is in town and is only a 15-minute walk from the beach, promenade and the old town.

Qatari citizens will now be able to visit Bulgaria for medical tourism. Bulgaria's minister of health Dessislava Atanassova has signed a memorandum for partnership with the Qatari government.

Tour operators and tourism department officials in Macedonia are expecting travellers from across the world in 2012. Compared to 2010, 2011 saw a 30% rise in the number of tourists visiting Macedonia, according to the Macedonian Chamber of Commerce. In 2011, the country that has a population of only 2 million received more than 700,000 visitors, mainly from within Europe, US and the Far East, but increasingly from Japan and China, while Qatar is the latest target market. Dental treatment and health tourism are both attracting an increasing number of visitors to Macedonia, but numbers are not known.

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