Etihad Airways has long been a key element of Abu Dhabi’s strategy to promote inbound tourism to the emirate – the quieter, less well known, and some might say more boring neighbour to the glitz and glamour of neighbouring Dubai. From the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to the stunning Louvre Abu Dhabi, Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates has promoted them all with gusto.
Its efforts have been largely successful – earlier this year, Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism revealed the city had welcomed over 10 million international visitors in 2018. The key markets of India, the United States and China had reportedly performed well, as did the UK – the largest European market for overseas visitors.
But aside from culture, sun and a little bit of fun there’s a new reason to visit Abu Dhabi that Etihad wants to promote – medical tourism.
Tony Douglas, the airline’s chief executive described the move to partner with the private Cleveland Clinic as a “natural progression” having introduced the services of an in-flight nurse for wealthy customers last year. Reinforcing that message, the Cleveland Clinic claimed it had treated over 1,300 international visitors from around 93 different countries in 2018 alone.
“This agreement sees two of the UAE’s most respected institutions come together to promote Abu Dhabi as a premier medical travel destination,” explained Dr Nadia Bastaki, vice president of medical services at Etihad Aviation Group.
In a press release, Etihad said it would “offer specific medical travel packages to key markets around the world, delivering a single solution for booking flights, accommodation and medical treatments at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, which covers more than 40 medical and surgical specialities.”
The deal between Etihad and the Cleveland Clinic is being supported by government authorities who earlier this year announced that they wanted to make Abu Dhabi a centre of health tourism.
Last year, Etihad introduced an integrated medical service – including an onboard nurse and medical screening programme as part of an attempt to differentiate itself from competitors in the region.