UAE medical tourism increases as sales top Dhs12-billion mark - GulfToday

UAE medical tourism increases as sales top Dhs12-billion mark


Expo 2020 and continued development of the healthcare sector are projected to drive sector growth in the near future.

Business Bureau, Gulf Today

Medical tourism sales in the UAE increased 5.5 per cent year-over-year to reach Dhs12.1 billion in 2018 with growth supported by a number of government-led initiatives and the rising number of medical tourists in the country, new analysis released by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry revealed.

The analysis, based on recent data from Euromonitor International and Fitch Solutions, found that health expenditure in the UAE amounted to an estimated Dhs50.3 billion in 2018, marking a 5.4 per cent increase compared to the previous year.

Key growth factors Key factors supporting this growth trend include new medical tourism initiatives implemented by government entities and increasing sector privatization of the sector in the form of investment and the building state-of-the-art health facilities.

 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.

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. UAE hospitals saw 49.1 million patients visits last year (up 3.5% from 2013), and 789,198 public inpatient admissions were accounted for last year, while 119,897 surgical procedures were performed during the same period.

Orthopaedics, sports medicine, dermatology and skin care, dentistry and fertility treatment are currently 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.

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 Dhs19.5 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.

Dubai welcomed 8.36 million international overnight visitors in the first six months (January-June) of 2019, posting a positive three per cent in tourism volume growth compared to the same period last year, according to the latest data released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism). The new figures reinforce the continued strength of Dubai’s tourism sector as a key driver of economic diversification and a reliable catalyst for GDP acceleration through 2020. The largest traffic generators as well as newer high-potential segments have set a strong preparatory pace to fuel Dubai’s climb to becoming the most visited global destination.

India once again led the pack, drawing the highest half year volumes with 997,000 visitors - particularly noteworthy given the severe air traffic and seat capacity challenges due to geopolitical volatilities. Dubai continued to drive booking interest from Indians on a mass scale largely due to high-impact delivery of segment and season-specific campaigns across the most accessible Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities. From focused ‘family’ or ‘couple’ oriented promotions to the Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan-led global #BeMyGuest campaign, the Department’s investments yielded strong returns, with the latter alone surpassing all records, logging 160 million views in a short few weeks. Additionally, at an audience penetration level, travel share of Indian families with children rose by a substantial 10 percentage points from 24 to 34 per cent, directly reflecting higher GDP impact due to party size and spend potential.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) delivered 755,000 visitors at two per cent year-on-year growth over six months with a notable 4.9 per cent increase over the Eid break alone - signifying continued stability in Dubai’s attractiveness for Saudi families and millennials. With the GCC as a whole, and KSA (as its lead contributor), being key priorities on Dubai Tourism’s strategic agenda, investments in deepening alliances with the country’s travel ecosystem continued to increase in H1 2019, reflecting the value of such partnerships - particularly via consolidated marketing-promotions-sales programmes. In addition to the planned calendar of specialised fam trips for KSA’s top travel agents and tour operators, showcasing the latest and most relevant Dubai offering to help them develop tailor-made itineraries for their audiences, Dubai Tourism entered into a long-term association with the Seera Group, one of the region’s leading providers of travel services in the Middle East and North Africa.

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