Invasion of the body fixers: Half a million medical tourists in Dubai this year

Published October 8th, 2015 - 05:36 GMT
Medical tourists are coming for a range of treatments from plastic surgery and orthopaedic operations to infertility treatments. (Shutterstock)
Medical tourists are coming for a range of treatments from plastic surgery and orthopaedic operations to infertility treatments. (Shutterstock)

The number of medical tourists in Dubai is expected to reach around 500,000 in the current year, nearly doubling the figure achieved in the first six months, according to a government official.

The forecast looks at tourists staying in 1,400 health care facilities, although the emirate has a total of around 2,900. Tourists are likely to come from within the UAE and markets including the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Asia and Europe, Dr. Layla Mohammad Al Marzouqi, director of the health regulation department at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said on the sidelines of the International Medical travel Conference and Exhibition in Dubai on Wednesday.

She did not give a forecast for the medical tourism revenue for the year.

Dubai attracted 260,000 medical tourists in the first half of 2015, up 12 per cent from the same period a year ago, and generated Dh1 billion in revenue during the period. Asian tourists accounted for 33 per cent of the total, followed by visitors from Europe with 27 per cent and GCC and other Arab countries with 23 per cent.

Dubai aims to grow the number of medical tourists by around 12 per cent annually to reach “more than 500,000” and generate Dh2.6 billion in revenue by 2020, said Linda Abdullah Ali, head of the medical tourism office at the health regulation department of the DHA.

Dubai had set a target last year to welcome 500,000 medical tourists by 2020, but it will now exceed it by 12-13 per cent, she added.

The emirate aims to achieve its 2020 target by continuing to promote Dubai as a medical tourism destination to markets like the GCC, Africa, Asia and the UK, and offer medical tourism packages, according to Ali.

Medical tourists travel to Dubai for a range of treatments, such as plastic surgery and orthopaedic and infertility treatments. Orthopaedic treatments have been the most profitable this year, according to Al Marzouqi.

The tourists come on a three-month medical tourism visa, which can be renewed for another three months.

Dr. Osman Al Bakry, general manager — business development at Prime Hospital in Dubai, said that the hospital treated 6,000 medical tourists this year, mainly from Africa, who accounted for approximately 15 per cent of the total number of patients. The number has jumped from 2,500 last year.

Shahed Syed, business development and marketing manager at Cocoona Centre for Aesthetic Transformation, said that the popular treatments among medical tourists at the centre include liposuction, hair transplant and cosmetic surgery. Most of the tourists are from the GCC, the UK, US and Nigeria, he added.

There are around 30 hospitals, with 26 of those private and four public. This number is expected to grow, as 10 new private hospitals are scheduled to open in two years’ time, as well as a public hospital (the Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital), according to Al Marzouqi.

By Sarah Algethami


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