Health Tourism in the UAE

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  • Some Arab countries have all the factors required for a successful health tourism industry and Government support can help these countries become popular health tourism destinations
  • The U.A.E. is positioning itself to become a hub for global medical tourism and a preferred destination for domestic and foreign patients seeking high quality and cost effective procedures and treatment
  • While Dubai has many things going for it which make it an excellent health tourism destination, there are some challenges it faces such as competition from some South Asian countries and availability of affordable medicine

Health Tourism is increasingly becoming a successful investment strategy in the west and far-east countries. Governments have supported this sector primarily for its anticipated contribution to the development of the economy through generation of revenues and for its potential impact on improved quality of healthcare services. However, some of the Arab countries are also in a position to make this sector a very successful industry as they do have all the factors that can make it happen. Some of these factors are; natural hot spring and mineral waters and state of the art medical centers as well as the abundant resources for investing in cutting edge healthcare services. The GCC spends an approximately USD 30 billion on overseas treatment yearly. Therefore, there has to be some strategies to shift the burden from the Government, one way of doing that is by promoting health tourism in the GCC through developing this sector and support it with all required legislations and policies that are conducive to creating a favorable environment for its growth.

The U.A.E. is positioning itself to become a hub for global medical tourism and a preferred destination for domestic and foreign patients seeking high quality and cost effective procedures and treatment. The U.A.E. is already home to a number of high-profile partnerships which seek to bring Western technology, practices, and standards to the U.A.E. in an efficient and culturally relevant manner. The Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and Mubadala—is scheduled to open its 360-bed multi-specialty tertiary care hospital in 2015 , The Johns Hopkins University Medical School works in partnership with Tawam Hospital, a 466-bed facility in Al Ain. The Dubai Healthcare City; consists of two free zones—a medical cluster and a wellness cluster—on a total of 23.2 million square feet of land and has attracted a number of top U.S companies and institutions as its key partners.

The U.A.E. has positioned itself as an attractive investment prospect for U.S. companies seeking to expand their footprint in the Gulf region. The country presents a substantial growth opportunity within the framework of strong regulatory oversight and ambitious plans to expand and improve healthcare coverage for its growing population. Through strong partnerships and direct investment opportunities. As per business monitor international report its expected that the health spending in the UAE will reach 11Billions US Dollars by 2015. Therefore, health tourism was consider as a sector which can contribute to the economic growth of the country.

Dubai has taken the initiative of promoting the city in the medical tourism hub in the 2012. Dubai is the most diversified economy in the GCC. Currently over 2 million residents from over 150 different nationalities lives in Dubai. It has its own Independent regulatory body established to ensure international standards in patient safety and quality of care. The health outcomes compare well to international benchmarks and clinical guidelines have been introduced. There are Over 4,750 doctors/ physicians speaking over 40 languages and centers of Excellence offering treatment for a wide range of specialties. This is to ensure that our community and our health tourism receive the best of care and feel safe. Geographically Dubai is only four hour flight from one third of the world’s population and within 12 hours for the remaining two thirds. As a health tourism it save on average between 30 to 60% on the cost of treatments when compared to the US. The high standard of living helps in attracting and retaining physicians and nursing staff compared to the other countries in the Middle East. And above all, the growing tourism sector and the expanding airlines networks (The Emirates and Al-Itihad airlines) make an excellent opportunity for promoting a travel driven medical tourism hub in the UAE.

Despite these forth mentioned favorable conditions, however looking at the market, there are challenges that Dubai will face and could be hard to change without a comprehensive plan, these include;

  • Competitive prices for treatment in the region; offered by India, Thailand and Singapore.
  • Nationals still seek health care in competitive countries.
  • Availability of world class, quality medicines at affordable prices.
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