Editor’s Note: Readers may recognize László Puczkó’s name as the author of numerous papers and books on medical travel (Wellness Tourism and Medical Tourism: Where do Spas Fit?, The Future of Spa Tourism, High-End Medical Travel), co-author of Health and Wellness Tourism, in-demand speaker for many global medicine conferences and events, and respected researcher. To that list of accomplishments you can now add founder of The Tourism Observatory for Health, Wellness and Spa. The aptly named observatory is intended to serve as a platform for professionals to gain an unbiased understanding of how the industry is evolving and operating around the world. Medical Travel Today recently spoke with Puczkó to learn more about The Tourism Observatory, as well his thoughts on the future direction of the industry. Medical Travel Today (MTT): First, congratulations on your new endeavor. Can you share with us how the organization will serve the industry? László Puczkó (LP): Thank you. I’m very excited about it. I think that The Tourism Observatory for Health, Wellness and Spa will fill a real need in the industry. Specifically, we’re looking to provide a link between all the academic research that’s being done in the field and industry professionals. We aim to provide unbiased access to data, research and understanding to the academic work, as well as provide those academic researchers with a better understanding and access to the industry. MTT: How do you anticipate the data and resources being used? LP: I see us working with different organizations and companies on strategic initiatives. Initiatives might be focused on assessing and understanding various destinations and product development. Looking at it from another perspective, a researcher could quickly gain access to understanding the different facilities and types of facilities currently in existence. The other significant thing I see The Observatory doing is providing some clarity for the industry. As I see it, we’re currently trapped by the various labels we apply to different types of care and facilities. For example, some people use the term ‘clinic’ to mean one thing where it means something altogether different elsewhere in the world. In some parts of the world a clinic requires certain certification. In the EU a clinic is often private or university-affiliated. They’re simply not the same thing everywhere. But if you’re trying to expand a network or do research, it can take a lot of effort – wasted effort – to figure that out. The same problem applies to spa and wellness industries…same terms, very different meanings, facilities and types of services. Our hope is to provide some global interpretation and understanding for all the various terms and give a complete and truer picture of what’s taking place where. MTT: I can see where this would be of use to consumers as well. LP: Yes, that’s chapter two of our effort…making the information available to consumers. Not only will we define for them what is a clinic or a medical city, but we’ll also present all the available treatment options. Often facilitators and facilities will only present the treatments they have an interest in or that they offer. But there are many evidence-based approaches that work…alternatives to surgery. There are numerous lifestyle practices, including traditions, rituals, teas and ancient practices that are proven to improve health. We intend to share that information right alongside the latest technological approaches to health. But I’m keenly interested in the lifestyle approach to health. I think these approaches will be real eye-openers for some folks. If you can resolve your issue without surgery, that holds great appeal. Part Two of this conversation will be featured in Issue 16. About Dr. László Puczkó Dr. László Puczkó (Ph.D., MSc, MA, CMC) is a managing director and head of tourism at Xellum management consulting company. He graduated in Business Administration at the Budapest University of Economic Sciences in 1993. He holds a master’s degree in Art & Design Management from the Hungarian Academy of Arts and Crafts, a Ph.D. from Budapest University of Economics and Public Administration, and is a Certified Management Consultant. He is president of the Association of Tourism Consultants (Hungary), professor at the Budapest College of Communication, Business and Arts, and guest professor at Parnu Kolledz (University of Tartu, Estonia), HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences (Helsinki-Porvoo, Finland), and International Business School (Budapest, Hungary). He was a Member of the Travel and Tourism Research Association Europe Chapter Board and was the originating co-founder of Wellness Tourism Worldwide. He is now the Chair of The Tourism Observatory for Health, Wellness and Spa. His main areas of expertise include tourism research, strategy preparation, planning and management in the following areas: health, wellness, medical and spa tourism, heritage and cultural tourism, national/regional/local planning, product and project development, experience mapping and enhancement, sustainability and quality of life. He has been involved in over 100 advisory projects and in recent years László has been advising several development projects aiming at thermal bath, spa, wellness and medical tourism developments, at the regional, local and site level. His work included conceptualization, financial and market feasibility, marketing planning and experience planning. László is an international speaker who has given lectures, seminars and training in more than 15 countries worldwide. During his career, in the area of tourism research, László organized and performed a series of primary research projects focusing on perception, marketing, attraction management and impacts of tourism both in Central European Countries and globally. Former positions: researcher, lecturer at the Tourism Research Centre of Budapest University of Economics and Public Administration (1993-2001), and manager at KPMG Advisory Travel, Leisure and Tourism Group (2001-2004). He is a co-author of books on health and wellness tourism, the impacts of tourism, visitor management and tourism management in historic cities.