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UAE: Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah look to attract medical tourists

While Dubai is the focus of attention, it should not be forgotten that it is only one of the seven states within the UAE. Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah states both want to be medical tourism destinations.

Ras Al Khaimah is set to raise its profile as a medical tourism destination. RAK Hospital, the northern emirate's largest privately owned healthcare facility, has a new deal with RAK Airways under which patients can fly in free of charge for treatment. Another deal with Etihad Airways is being negotiated. RAK Hospital is a subsidiary of Arabian Healthcare, a joint venture company between the government of Ras Al Khaimah and the ETA Group.

Raza Seddiqi at ETA Star Healthcare says "When you talk about medical tourism, you cannot just talk about the medical aspect alone. Patients want a good hospitality environment. Medical tourism can take off only when health care meets hospitality."Ras Al Khaimah has been bringing in more tourists from Russia, the UK and Italy. Now, by promoting itself as a medical tourism destination, the emirate can hope to break into other markets."

The UAE has to compete on quality, not price. The average cost of heart bypass surgery in the UAE is $15,000 to $18,000 compared with $18,500 in Singapore, $15,000 in Thailand, between $12,000 to $15,000 in India and $10,000 to $12,000 in Malaysia.

The hospital argues that “price is not a key factor for the market it targets, as the rule of thumb in medical tourism is that 40 % go for advanced technology, 32 % seek better health care, 15 % opt for faster medical services, while only 9 % favour lower costs as the reason.”

By providing free air travel free to Ras Al Khaimah, RAK Hospital is making a more compelling case for itself on the cost factor. RAK Hospital has an arrangement with the hotel operator Cove Rotana where the package price package allows patients to recuperate. Other hotels will be added if there is demand. Raza Seddiqi explains, "The intention is to provide American or international quality health care at Asian prices. Our main target clientele is visitors from the CIS and Africa, the latter group currently meeting their medical requirements by visiting Thailand or India. We could also tap into the demand for medical services from Pakistanis, who currently travel to India." Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), community of independent nations includes-Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Georgia.

ETA Star Healthcare is planning to create specialty hospitals in Dubai and Abu Dhabi similar to the one in Ras Al Khaimah. RAK Hospital has been open for four years, and plans to increase capacity to 150 beds.

The Cleveland Clinic, based in Ohio, USA is set to open its first facility outside North America next year on Sowwah Island, in Abu Dhabi. The $1.9 billion hospital, offering specializations including neurological and cardiovascular treatments, will be built and owned by Mubadala, the investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government, with Cleveland as the operator. Rosewood Hotels and Resorts will have a luxury spa hotel on the island, Rosewood Abu Dhabi. Both aim to attract people from within the  United Arab Emirates, elsewhere in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Medical tourism news06 March 2012
Related linkRAK Hospital
Related linkCleveland Clinic

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