Riding The Wellness Wave
“Riding The Wellness Wave With its innovative facilities, and strategic location, the UAE has become a leading medical tourism hub”
By Raza Siddiqui, Chief Executive Officer, Arabian Healthcare Group and Executive Director, RAK Hospital, UAE
According to recent reports, the UAE accounts for 26 per cent of the total healthcare spend by GCC governments, and the per capita healthcare spending in the UAE was the second highest in the GCC. With a target of half a million international medical tourists by 2020, the UAE is aiming high. In fact, Abu Dhabi is well on its way to establish a medical tourism network in order to attract and serve patients from Russia, China, India, and beyond. The capital has even established the ‘Shafafiya E- Portal’ where the Abu Dhabi Department of Health has urged all providers to document medical tourist’s records.
At present, the UAE leads the Middle Eastern wellness tourism market, with an average of 1.7 million wellness trips generating US$2.7 billion annually. The country accounts for 14 per cent of the MENA spa market. Plus, wellness trips in the UAE have grown by 17.9 per cent over the past five years, while overall tourism has grown 8.1 per cent.
Currently, there are around 4,740 doctors in the UAE, who speak more than 40 languages, and there are top-class health centres that offer treatment for a wide range of medical conditions. Each year the expected growth in medical tourists is 13 per cent, which means by 2021 the UAE will be seeing 1.3 million medical tourists. This growth bodes well for the expansion of the healthcare sector.
The UAE has positioned itself as a force to reckon with in the medical tourism sector by placing themselves within the top 20 destinations of choice. If the government continues to maintain this momentum and provide the right support and regulatory frameworks, it will definitely achieve its goal of making it to the top five by 2020.
The UAE also recently signed a strategic partnership with a massive country such as China.
Chinese tourists who have increased by 120 per cent in the last five years will likely start looking at the UAE as an attractive medical tourism destination if providers and investors alike adjust their products and services to serve them.
Thailand alone saw nine million Chinese medical tourists in 2016, and there is no reason why they would not divert their attention to the UAE.
By 2020, Dubai is expected to have around 34 pharmaceutical and medical equipment plants, and the value of the private pharmaceutical industry in the UAE, currently estimated to be Dh5.9 billion, is expected to reach Dh25 billion in 2025.
As per the medical tourism index, Dubai continues to strengthen its position as a medical tourism destination, ranking globally in 16th position and first in the MENA region. The creation of initiatives, such as the Dubai Health Experience (DXH) – the first medical tourism portal in the world that allows tourists to book their entire ‘medical holiday’ online: from procedure to flights and hotel, has given this movement a further boost.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) reports that orthopaedics, dermatology and ophthalmology are the main types of medical treatments attracting tourists to Dubai, with most coming from Asian (37 per cent) or other Arab and GCC (31 per cent) countries.
With the third best air transport infrastructure in the world according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) and being just eight hours away from two-thirds of the world’s population, Dubai is an ideal destination for medical tourism.
The increase in demand for healthcare services over the past 10 years has been spurred on by increasing population growth (6 per cent) and the government creating investor friendly environments, such as establishing a healthcare free zone and introducing mandatory insurance.
Specialists are already witnessing the changes in patient demand such as the need for treatment of chronic diseases, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. This increases the need for rehabilitation services where patients can recuperate.
In order to facilitate this, 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 professionals and 4,000 facilities. The key, I
believe, is to never stop innovating, especially in such a field.
Banking on Wellness
The UAE wellness and spa travel market, comprising both inbound and domestic travellers, represents roughly 15 per cent of the total tourism market. Authentic Middle Eastern spa, wellness experiences, and beauty traditions such as hammam are gaining traction with professional and middleclass consumers in the UAE, who are living increasingly hectic, yet sedentary lifestyles.
The tourism industry in the UAE is worth around US$36 billion, out of which 12 to 13 per cent is contributed by wellness tourism. Capitalising on its increasing popularity, a greater percentage of enormous multitrillion industries, such as real estate, food and beverage, and travel, are incorporating wellness services into their businesses.
Keeping up with the trends is RAK Hospital, a private, tertiary care, multispecialty hospital under the Arabian Healthcare Group, a joint venture with the Government of Ras Al Khaimah, under the aegis of His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qassimi. We have received
Joint Commission International, U.S.-based hospital accreditation.
The hospital is housed in a sprawling complex, specially designed as a premium healthcare and hospitality destination by U.S.based Ellerbe Becket of Mayo clinic repute. The building boasts a built-up area of 140,000 sq.ft., across three levels, and the rooms are all premium category.
Following the UAE’s lead to bring more medical tourists into the country, RAK Hospital has introduced a number of innovative concepts and surgical procedures at par with the West. Moreover, with a multi-lingual staff and world-known doctors, we have been successful in gaining the trust of medical tourists and are in a confident position to accommodate the increasing number of international patients.