The UAE's Rise to Prominence in Medical Tourism

A Premier Destination for Specialized Care

The UAE continues to affirm its position as a leading medical tourism hub for international healthcare travellers. The country has marked a significant milestone in its journey as a premier destination for medical tourism. The country attracted visitors seeking specialized treatments in dermatology, dentistry, gynaecology, orthopaedics, plastic surgery, ophthalmology and fertility treatments.

Asian visitors comprised 39% of the total medical tourists, closely followed by Europe and CIS regions at 22%. The GCC and Arab nations contributed 21%, underscoring the UAEs appeal within its regional proximity. The remaining 18% hailed from various global regions, highlighting the widespread recognition of the UAEs thriving medical tourism sector on a global scale.

Rising Expenditure and Corporate Engagement

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) reported a significant rise in medical tourism, with 674,000 visitors spending AED 992 million ($270 million). In 2023, Dubai was ranked as no. 1 medical tourism in the MENA region and sixth globally as per the Medical Tourism Index. Concurrently, wellness tourism expenditures in the UAE surged from AED 7.7 billion ($2.1 billion) in 2020 to AED 19.8 billion ($5.4 billion) in 2022, driven by both individual travelers and corporations prioritizing employee health through overseas medical treatments. Stan Klyuy, Chief Commercial Officer at Tumodo, emphasized the growing trend of corporate-sponsored travel for medical purposes, highlighting the UAE’s expanding role in global medical and wellness tourism.

Government Initiatives and Health Care Focus

The UAE government has prioritized healthcare through various initiatives such as the Emirates Health Services Innovation Strategy 2023-2026 and the National Strategy for Wellbeing 2031. The country boasts the fastest growth rate in health spending within the GCC, projected to reach AED 112.7 billion ($30.7 billion) by 2027.

Abu Dhabi launched a Medical Tourism e-portal, offering visitors a comprehensive list of healthcare facilities and treatment packages. Concurrently, Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) introduced a medical visa, facilitating stays of 3-6 months for patients. Dubai has cemented its status as a leading medical destination, drawing patients from Asia, Africa, Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the GCC.

Abu Dhabi’s Growing Popularity

Jorge A. Guzman, Chief Executive of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, reported a 20% increase in medical tourists last year, affirming Abu Dhabi as a favored destination with over 15,000 annual visitors, according to the Abu Dhabi Investment Office.

Future Growth and Challenges

With global population growth and advancements in healthcare, the industry is poised for expansion. In addition, the UAEs healthcare market is projected to reach AED 112.6 billion ($30.7 billion) by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.4% starting from 2023. In particular, the UAE is committed to improving healthcare infrastructure and driving growth in the areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI), genomics and health literacy. The UAEs ongoing investments and innovative strategies in healthcare position it strongly for future success in the global medical tourism market.

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Author: Naheeza
The author is an optometrist and researcher holding a master's degree in Bioscience. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Vision Science, Technology and Eye Optics.