As a region best known for its natural resources and cultural heritage some primary markets with growth potential in the CEE is tourism. A rapidly growing sector is in medical tourism, with the most popular destinations among North Americans being Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, their geographical and cultural proximity making it a low cost alternative to other Asian markets. Government initiatives in Latvia are looking to promote and develop the industry by launching the Health Tourism Cluster in 2014, while Bulgaria’s Tokuda Hospital in Sofia was the first to be founded from 100 per cent foreign investment.
CEE is also especially known for its natural thermal springs. In Czech Republic, the ‘West Bohemian spa triangle’ is known for its high concentration of spas, while Lithuania offers a range of spa-related sites and facilities, along with Poland, Latvia, Hungary and Estonia. Bulgaria has the second most number of mineral springs in Europe after Iceland.
Potential in recreational and leisure tourism lies around the Jizera and Krkonoše Mountains in the Czech Republic and Retezat mountains in Romania and the Tatras across Poland and Slovakia. The latter region has seen investment of over €144 million in its ski resorts from TMR, with the Slovakian government introducing fiscal incentives to attract further FDI, while Romania welcomes investment in developing its ski facilities in the Carpathians.
Tourism is one of the most important industries in Croatia, accounting for 14.4 per cent of the GDP, with the government looking to expand its international tourist market, while Lithuania a broad range of site-seeing attractions and Latvia’s relatively untouched nature is ideal for developing ecotourism.