Abu Dhabi: With an aim of becoming the region’s leading medical tourist destination, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in Abu Dhabi on Sunday between the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT – Abu Dhabi) and the Medical Tourism Association (MTA), which will see both entities partnering together to promote Abu Dhabi as a medical tourist destination in markets such as Russia, China and the GCC.

The 10-year agreement will also see the opening of the MTA’s first office in Abu Dhabi, as well as the hosting of the World Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress in Abu Dhabi next year, with hundreds of experts and organisations from more than 100 countries expected to take part.

Based in the US, the MTA is a non-profit organisation that supports health care providers and governments looking to create a successful medical tourist programme in their country.

“This agreement is in line with our mandate to promote Abu Dhabi on the world stage and to support Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030, which is designed to guide our emirate’s growth and development,” said Saif Saeed Gobash, Undersecretary of the DCT – Abu Dhabi.

“The experience and knowledge shared under this MoU will greatly enhance the emirate’s ability to appeal to our intended markets as we look to increase the contribution of medical tourism to the UAE’s economy,” he added.

Jonathan Edelheit, chairman and chief executive officer of MTA, stated he was confident of Abu Dhabi’s ability to establish itself as a trusted medical tourist city.

“[We’re going to be] working on targeting patients in very specific markets – the other GCC countries, Russia, China and other areas of the world. We’re going to put our focus in speciality areas like cardiology, oncology and executive screenings.

“I think we’re going to see Abu Dhabi become known as one of those places that people are going to come for longevity, those treatments that are going to help you live longer,” he added.

Edelheit also spoke on the importance of giving patients from abroad a positive experience while visiting the city; from the moment they arrive at the airport and their stay at the hotel.

“The travel and hospitality sectors play a major role in medical tourism because the experiences isn’t just in the hospital. If they end up leaving the hospital and have a bad experience at the hotel or have a bad experience during a tour [this can create a negative impact].”