UAE's medical tourism gains momentum in 2018
The government's efforts to promote the UAE as medical tourism hub have yielded positive results as medical tourism registered 5.5 per cent year-over-year growth to reach Dh12.1 billion in 2018, says a report.
Latest data isued by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday attributed steady growth in medical tourism sales to number of government-led initiatives to promote the sector. It identified orthopaedics, sports medicine, dermatology and skin care, dentistry and fertility treatment, among the top specialities, for medical tourism in Dubai.
Moreover, Dubai Healthcare City is positioning itself as a leading medical tourism destination and it works with industry players to attract more medical tourists from around the world.
"The upsurge in the UAE healthcare sector has successfully positioned Dubai as a super-hub for medical treatments globally," Taher Shams, managing director, Zulekha Healthcare Group, said.
Elaborating, he said the initiatives such as DXH by the Dubai Health Authority and many other online medical services booking platforms have made access to healthcare easy and affordable. "Tourists now have first-hand interactions from the comfort of their homes and understand the quality of service they can look forward to in reputed hospitals in Dubai. The medical tourism sector has been fuelled with technology which is bridging the distance, saving time and ensuring quality decisions are made by patients with regards to their health and wellness," he said.
The chamber report, based on recent data from Euromonitor International and Fitch Solutions, found that health expenditure in the UAE amounted to an estimated Dh50.3 billion in 2018, marking a 5.4 per cent increase compared to the previous year.
Key factors supporting this growth trend include new medical tourism initiatives implemented by government entities and increasing sector privatisation of the sector in the form of investment and the building state-of-the-art health facilities.
Dr Raza Siddiqui, executive director, RAK Hospital, said: "UAE has gained global recognition as a medical tourism destination thanks to its excellent standards of care, sophisticated healthcare facilities and its wealth of medical experts, which is bringing in an increasing number of patients to the country.The country's strategic geographic location, strong and reliable connectivity across the globe, state-of-the-art medical facilities that conform to the high standards, innovative technologies and skilled expertise have all played a major role in attracting medical tourists."
Among the main initiatives recently introduced by the Dubai Health Authority is the Dubai Health Experience (DXH), which is the first medical tourism portal in the region enabling tourists to book their entire medical holiday online.
Furthermore, the Abu Dhabi Department of Health and Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT), jointly launched the Abu Dhabi Medical Tourism e-portal, a digital platform that provides visitors to Abu Dhabi with all medical offerings and healthcare facilities available throughout the duration of their visit.
"Over the past year, Dubai has witnessed an influx in incoming patients thanks to the efforts of the wise leadership in boosting the Emirate's medical tourism, positioning Dubai at the forefront of quality global healthcare. As a result of our medical expertise, we have patients visiting American Hospital seeking orthopaedic, oncology, and cardiology treatments as well as general and plastic surgeries and wellness packages, all of whom we grant access to specialist practices. We are committed to offering advanced care for residents as well as highlight Dubai's appeal to visitors as a healthcare destination that offers superb levels of medical diagnosis and treatment," Ghanim Al Marri, director of government relation and medical tourism, American Hospital Dubai.
In addition, the Abu Dhabi DCT and Medical Tourism Association (MTA) have signed a memorandum of understanding to greenlight the opening of the MTA's first office in Abu Dhabi and the hosting of the World Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress in Abu Dhabi in October 2019.
According to the analysis, there were 154 hospitals in the UAE in 2018, up from 107 in 2013. The UAE hospitals saw 49.1 million patients visits last year, up 3.5 per cent from 2013, and 789,198 public inpatient admissions were accounted for last year, while 119,897 surgical procedures were performed during the same period.
Growth momentum behind medical tourism in the UAE is expected to continue over the years with sales in this sector projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR), reaching an estimated value of Dh19.5 billion by 2023. Expo 2020 and continued development of the healthcare sector are project to drive sector growth in the near future, in addition to Dubai government's target of attracting more than 500,000 medical tourists by 2020.