The Estonian Health Tourism Cluster is a cooperation council that brings together Estonian medical spa companies, research and development institutions and other umbrella organisations in the field of health tourism. The main target is to develop the field of health tourism in Estonia, improve its competitiveness and promote it abroad as well locally.
In order to fulfil its objectives, the Estonian Health Tourism Cluster (hereafter also EHTC) compiled theEstonian Health Tourism Cluster Strategic Plan for 2011 – 2015 (hereafter also cluster strategy) and a non-profit organisation called the Estonian Health Tourism Association was founded in January 2011.
EHTC is a further development of the Estonian Spa Cluster initiative that in the provisional application stage in autumn 2009 received funding from the Enterprise Estonia’s cluster programme. The spa cluster’s focus has evolved over the past year and a half and a decision has been reached that the approach towards health tourism promotion should be more comprehensive than agreed in the initial planning stages. More interested parties outside the Estonian Spa Association keep joining the cluster’s activities; the cluster’s new partners include health tourism development organisations and service providers.
EHTC partners can be divided into three groups – companies (mainly medical spa companies), research and development institutions, and umbrella organisations in the field of health tourism,. The goal of the cooperation between these three parties is the fulfilment of the jointly planned objectives that also comply with the Development Fund’s ambitions regarding the health tourism sector.
The shared ambition of the cluster’s members is to act as the forerunner that increases the export of health tourism services from 360 million EEK (year 2010) to 1-2 billion EEK (app. 3-6 times more) by the year 2020. Analyses show that it is possible but demands close cooperation between parties, constant involvement in development projects, and long-term commitment.
The cluster’s strategic goals for 2011 – 2015 are the following:
1. Increasing the worldwide popularity figures and the number of health tourists (domestic tourism and export both),
2. Diversifying the health tourism products and services and improving their quality,
3. Improving the professional skills of health tourism practitioners,
4. Positioning health tourism companies and becoming one of the opinion leaders of Estonia’s health care system
5. Increasing the efficiency of health tourism companies through sustainable development.
A joint action plan and a budget are compiled to carry out the cluster’s long-term strategy, including for the fulfilment of its strategic objectives. The budget for the actions that need to be implemented according to the cluster strategy for 2011 – 2014 has been drafted as a part of the strategy (p. 21). In addition, the cluster compiles detailed action plans covering a period of six months to ensure flexibility and operational capability in the process of achieving their goals. The definition and the implementation of the actions necessary to reach the cluster’s goals is carried out by the four following working groups that consist of the cluster’s members: sustainable development, need for staff training, medical product development, and product development with marketing.
Cluster’s operations (inc. adopting an action plan) are coordinated by the cluster’s council; each partner appoints one representative to the council. A Project Manager is responsible for the cluster’s daily management. In addition to the Project Manager, the cluster employs a development employee.
The Estonian Health Tourism Cluster welcomes new partners in addition to its current members that share mutual interest in the development of health tourism in Estonia. Companies are especially welcome, inc. wellness-spas and other providers of health care services.