Dubai expects influx of medical tourists thanks to COVID-19 response

The emirate has been hailed as having some of the best health facilities in the world

Medical tourism, Dubai health authority, COVID-19, Coronavirus, Uae tourism sector, Dubai, Tourist

The Dubai Health Authority has said it expects the emirate’s health tourism sector to come back strong thanks to the city’s reassuring prompt action against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, Dubai projected that the sector would contribute about 500,000 visitors in the emirate by 2021. In the wake of the virus, authorities more people are waiting to travel for health and medical reasons.

The Health Tourism Department held a webinar themed ‘Dubai Leads the Great Comeback discussing Dubai’s readiness to cater to these new health tourists.

Dr. Marwan Al Mulla, CEO - Health Regulation Sector, Dubai Health Authority, said, "As we all know, the world is currently facing an unprecedented crisis - one that has managed to impact various industry verticals, including health tourism. However, the government's commitment and effort to address the impact of the pandemic has put us on the path to recovery rather soon. In fact, the exemplary actions of the government has allowed the UAE to be ranked as one of the safest nations during the pandemic—number one in the Arab region and one of the world's top ten in managing COVID-19."

He continued that Dubai has worked to establish new health facilities throughout the year, helping to attract possible medical tourists. "The Dubai Health Authority has licensed a total of 3,397 health facilities in the emirate, 45 of which are newly established during the first half of 2020. Dubai Health Experience remains committed to supporting the emirate’s journey to become the most preferred global health tourism destination and a hub for top-accredited healthcare facilities," added Al Mulla.

Throughout the course of 2020, healthcare and hospitality have become gradually more intertwined. As Covid-19 prevention skyrocketed to become peoples’ top priority, hotel groups worked tirelessly to roll out medical-grade hygiene procedures.

According to Colliers International, the MENA region could start combining healthcare facilities and hotels. It said in a report: “For main cities, such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Jeddah and Cairo, tour and hotel operators can affiliate with local hospitals that are known to provide good quality of care.”

The report further suggested: “For resorts outside the main cities, similar to the costal resorts in Egypt, Jordan, Oman, the UAE and more recently in KSA (Red Sea Project, Qiddiya Entertainment City and Amaala Red Sea Riviera) hotel operators may have to combine to provide the support facilities. This may take the form of shared capital cost to establish a suitable healthcare facility; as with hotel branding consideration could be given to healthcare brands that would enhance the attraction of the overall destination. Once established, to improve profitability, the facility would also serve the permanent catchment population alongside tourists and those owning holiday homes.”

Suggestions like these have already been seen in the UAE, where the Pullman Hotel in Sharjah is connected to the Oriana Hospital. The medical centre at the hotel offers common medical services and surgeries. As Manazil Group explained, guests could undergo surgery at the medical centre and then recover in a hotel room at the property.

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