Wednesday, 28 June 2017

GERMANY: More Gulf Medical Tourists Head To Berlin

Berlin wants to attract 10,000 additional tourists from the Arabian Gulf this year, as the city targets travellers seeking medical treatment.

Burkhard Kieker, the chief executive of visitBerlin, the tourism board of the German capital, was in Abu Dhabi to meet government health officials and representatives of local private hospitals to promote the city as a medical tourism destination.

Europe has been suffering due to the security situation for the past one year but we see a strong recovery in the number of tourists from the Gulf, Mr Kieker says.

Last year, Berlin received 50,000 tourists from the Arabian Gulf, of which about 12,000 were medical tourists, making it the second-most popular German city after Munich.

This year, Mr Kieker expects the number of tourists from the Arabian Gulf to grow by 20 per cent and the number of medical tourists to increase by about 30 per cent.

We expect an increase in medical tourists because leading families from the region come to Berlin, it is a city where you can feel safe, it has a large Muslim population, it has great shopping and has around 28 five-star hotels, Mr Kieker said.

There has been heavy investment in the hospitals and clinics, and an increase in Arabic-speaking staff.

The changes in insurance policies in Abu Dhabi that make it more expensive for some Emiratis to seek treatment abroad did not impact the patient numbers to Berlin, according to Mr Kieker.

There has been a rise in the number of self-pay patients to Berlin because they do not want to wait in a line, although the majority of the patients are still government sponsored, he said.

Emiratis and Gulf medical tourists typically seek oncology, urology, cardiology, diabetology and trauma care treatment.

An average Emirati patient can stay anywhere between two weeks and three months,said Nizar Maarouf, the vice director of Vivantes International Medicine, a Berlin-based healthcare group with nine hospitals.

Berlin has about 80 clinics and hospitals such as the Vivantes hospital group and Charite Berlin.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the top countries in the Arabian Gulf region to send medical tourists to Germany, including Berlin.

Etihad flies to Berlin twice daily from Abu Dhabi.

Qatar Airways also connects the UAE capital to Berlin. Emirates is yet to get landing rights in Berlin.

Terrorist attacks in Europe have hurt its tourism sector.

In its annual report, Emirates cited these terror attacks as among the reasons for soft demand to Europe from the region.