Abu Dhabi’s medical tourism push poses competition to SE Asia

Al Dhaheri: taking on the competition with focus on specialised treatments like open heart surgeries

Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture & Tourism (DCT) is stepping up efforts to position itself as a destination for medical tourism, posing potential competition to South-east Asian countries looking to tap key markets like China.

DCT recently signed an agreement with the Medical Tourism Association, which has now opened a regional office in Abu Dhabi.

Al Dhaheri: taking on the competition with focus on specialised treatments like open heart surgeries

Apart from working closely with medical tourism tour operators, DCT will from October embark on a series of roadshows in markets like GCC, Russia and China.

The department is also working on creating medical tourism packages. “Medical tourists purchasing packages to Abu Dhabi will be offered discounts on attractions. This way, we are encouraging medical tourists to travel with their families,” said DCT executive director, Sultan Al Mutawa Al Dhaheri, on the sidelines of the recent annual convention of Travel Agents Association of India in Abu Dhabi.

In addition, DCT plans to organise a fam trip for Chinese tour operators dealing in medical tourism.

Biju Andrews, manager-tours, Airtravel Enterprises & Tourism, observed: “Abu Dhabi’s promotion of its medical tourism offerings will pose competition to South-east Asian countries like Thailand and Malaysia, which are working towards attracting international medical tourists.”

For Al Dhaheri, what will help Abu Dhabi “take on competition” are a focus on specialised treatments like open heart surgeries, world-class medical facilities such as Cleveland Clinic, and the tour component.

Travel industry observers also single out Abu Dhabi’s “state-of-the-art medical facilities”, combined with new hotels and attractions, as key draws that will help the destination tap markets such as China.

“There are medical tourists even from South-east Asian countries like Indonesia already visiting Abu Dhabi for medical procedures,” Andrews said.

Added Hamzah, Rahmat, executive director, Federation of ASEAN Travel Associations: “Medical tourists from South-east Asian countries are going beyond the region to places like South Korea as well. So there are enough opportunities for Abu Dhabi to attract medical tourists from across the globe and compete with South-east Asian destinations.”

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