Arab Health, a four-day international exhibition, was opened yesterday by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
The $74 billion (Dh271bn) healthcare market in the Gulf is growing at 16 per cent annually and has been attracting global companies as this sector offers rare growth opportunities in the present economic downturn.
The region is one of the fastest-growing markets for hospital equipment and services companies.
According to research, Gulf countries are investing more than $14bn in healthcare projects.
The UAE has projects worth $2.9bn under way, while Saudi Arabia is investing $6.6bn and Qatar $2.8bn.
With growing populations and new health insurance regulations for expatriates coming into force, Middle East – particularly Dubai – offers opportunities for companies and organisations involved in the industry.
The first phase of the $1.9bn Cleveland Clinic Al Suwwa Island development project is being built in Abu Dhabi, while the $572 million Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Centre is coming up in Dubai Healthcare City.
"While real estate projects in the region are suffering from the global economic crisis, not even one hospital-related project has yet been cancelled or put on hold as a direct result of the slowdown," said Simon Page, Director of Life Sciences Division at exhibition organiser IIR Middle East.
"The event, showcasing the latest medical technologies and clinical research, has attracted good response from several countries and the waiting list contains about 200 companies. The UAE Government is committed to continued growth in infrastructure and we are not seeing any negative impact on the healthcare business.
"Major business deals will be announced throughout the event. We have an encouraging number of participants including medical professionals, researchers, scholars, manufacturers, IT companies and speakers.
"The 2009 congress will include 16 conferences on the healthcare industry, management and legislation. And the 2009 Arab Health Innovation and Achievement awards will be announced on January 28."
Dr Ayesha Abdulla, DHC's Senior Vice-President, said: "More than 2,500 exhibitors from over 65 countries are participating in this exhibition. The healthcare city is proud to be the lead sponsor. We will have one of the largest and most distinctive presences at the congress, reflecting our ongoing commitments to patient-centred care and the pursuit of healthcare innovation."