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Germany Calling!

Gulf Weekly / Travel Weekly

Gulf Weekly logoTHE demand for health trips to Europe and family adventure holidays to the Middle East and Asia is providing a flourishing friendship between Germany and Bahrain and growing business opportunities.

At the forefront of the drive are Bahraini Mohammed Al Sharqi and German Birgit Hobaugh who are packaging a series of options for visitors going in both directions.

The success of the services they offer has resulted in a name change from Bahraini German International Medical Care to Bahraini German International Services as the company continues to grow and prosper.

General manager Mr Al Sharqi said: "We started by offering people health services abroad and it has now developed into a full travel enterprise and growing relationships between the two countries."

His love affair with Germany developed watching the country play in the 1986 FIFA World Cup finals in Mexico on TV and he now supports and has become a life-time member of the 1.FFC Hannover 04 team.

Mr. Al Sharqi, from Isa Town, said: "The idea of offering travel support to Arabic patients came when I travelled to Czech Republic in 1997 with my mother who needed medical treatment. We had some difficulty with the language and despite this we even helped a Kuwaiti family who were facing similar problems.

"I came back home after three months and thought about opening a company to help people receiving treatment in Europe and I made a market study and a business plan"

In March 2003, he met up with Ms Hobaugh, now the company's executive manager, who was in the region looking for business opportunities.

On December 31, 2003, they opened for business at the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) Hospital complex offering medical services to individuals requiring further treatment abroad. The services on offer included reccomendation of medical treatment by a specialist doctor, organising all necessary reservations, visa applications and services like transfers and translations.

Mr. Al Sharqi said: "We know we have achieved our goals when customers return to Bahrain with improved health and visit us with big smiles and flowers thanking us for the support we have offered - that's our happiness."

Customers also started making requests for sight-and shopping tours after their treatment and as demand increased it became apparent that the company needed to change its name and extend its portfolio of services.

Mr. Al Sharqi said: "We did some further research on the tourism field and began to focus on inbound tours from Germany. Fortunately, it also coincided with the coming of Formula One to Bahrain which proved a huge attraction."

In the past three years tourists have flocked to the kingdom from Germany and its European neighbours such as France, Italy and Spain.

Bahraini German International Services special attractions now include offering outbound tourism for young people and families. Adventure trips for university students are particularly popular. "We assign a guide who is in-charge of them from the moment they begin their trip until they return after two or three weeks of enjoying extreme sports including kayaking, canoeing, mountaineering and camping in forests," said Mr Al Sharqi.

"We also offer special packages for families with small children to enjoy a 'life on a farm' in Bavaria and parts of rural Germany."

For tourists coming to visit the island from Europe, the company offers a truly Arabic experience with desert camps, beach-side traditional barbecues as well as fishing trips.

Mr. Al Sharqi said: "Since I grew up on the island, I know many places where people can enjoy nature to its full. I can take tourists to many places during the day and night and let them enjoy the traditional way of Bahraini life and experience my country in a special way.

"For Bahrain's future, we hope to be part of the development of health tourism in our country to be able to offer inbound health tourism to the kingdom and bring more patients here to receive medical treatment.

"We also need to increase tourism to Bahrain by making sure we keep our culture and tradiion and preserve them for future generations."

Reprinted from Gulf Weekly / Travel Weekly section. October 21-27, 2009 edition. Click here to see the original article on the Gulf Weekly website.

Telephone: +973 1774 2282  •  Fax: +973 1774 2287  •  Email:  •  Post: P.O. Box 26069, Manama, Bahrain

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