Dubai set to become medical tourism hub

Top Stories

Dubai set to become medical tourism hub

Healthcare tourists in Dubai can choose from over 30,000 healthcare professionals spread among 3,000 facilities and by 2020 these numbers are expected to grow to 40,000 healthcare professionals and 4,000 facilities.

By Bernd Debusmann Jr./senior Reporter

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Wed 6 May 2015, 12:58 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 10:42 PM

Dubai — Dubai can expect at least half a million healthcare tourists to be part of the massive influx of people coming to the Emirate for Expo 2020, according to Dubai Health Authority officials and local medical professionals.

Speaking at the Arabian Travel Market, Jenny Mariam John, Development Officer for the Dubai Healthcare Authority (DHA), noted that the 500,000 dedicated medical tourists will represent only a part of the large number of people expected to have medical procedures done as part of their visit.

“We are also hoping to have people come and have medical work done as a secondary purpose, and are encouraging hotels in Dubai to keep brochures about health check-ups and aesthetic procedures,” she said. “Many of the elective procedures you can do in even a day, like a dental cleaning. That can make it a complete package of tourism with healthcare.”

John said at the moment, healthcare tourists in Dubai can choose from over 30,000 healthcare professionals spread among 3,000 facilities. By 2020, these numbers are expected to grow to 40,000 healthcare professionals and 4,000 facilities, supplemented by an online registration process.

The rise of Dubai as a destination for tourists seeking treatment has led to the rise of medical tourism facilitator companies like Salamatak, which serves to connect medical tourists from abroad with practitioners in Dubai and provide services during and after their stay. “In the past, usually patients had to go online and search for a doctor and it took a month or two,” said medical tourism facilitator Samer Mazahreh. “Many people don’t have companions so they went on their own to the doctor, there are no translators, and after they’re done they went back to their home country without any kind of support or follow-up.

“Now, within two days, medical tourists get a free medical consultation, there is price transparency, and they have someone to book their flights, their tickets, their accommodation, their airport pick-up, to go with them to the doctors and translate,” he added.

Currently, almost half of the medical tourists to Dubai come from other GCC countries or from other Middle Eastern countries. But Mazahreh said he expects an increase in medical tourists from other regions in the coming years.

“There is a huge market in Africa for medical tourism to Dubai, and since Dubai is a main tourist destination for Russians, we are seeing many more people from Russia and the CIS countries,” he said. “From a medical side, the beauty of Dubai is that it’s close, it’s safe, and all languages are spoken. There is no need to go to Europe or America, with long flight times, visa procedures and expensive prices.”

 Wellness tourists

Apart from the half million tourists expected in facilities under the umbrella of the DHA, thousands more are expected to flock to Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), a sprawling 27 million square-metre medical free zone. Last year, of 1.2 million patient visits to Dubai Healthcare City, 15 per cent were medical tourists.

Dr Fatma Al Sharaf, Senior Manager for Strategy and Partner Development at DHCC, said DHCC expects an increase in “wellness tourists” in the lead-up to Expo 2020.

“We would like to maintain our current numbers with medical tourists and shift our paradigm to wellness tourists as well,” she said. “In wellness tourism, we usually target healthy people who would like to come and live a healthier lifestyle, as opposed to sick people looking for treatment. It’s a completely different target audience.”

Dr Al Sharaf noted that 85 per cent of “wellness tourists” see medical tourism as just part of their trips to Dubai, often with their families.

“We’re in a great position in Dubai. We think that Dubai offers the whole family different activities and entertainment. That would not only help attract medical tourists themselves, but the entire family.”

More news from