Medical tourism in UAE at Dh7bn by 2010

Dubai HealthCare City will be a favourite destination for medical tourists (CRAIG SCARR)

The medical tourism industry, currently worth $56 billion worldwide, is projected to be worth $100 billion by 2012, according to latest figures.

Medical tourism, on the back of an increase in the number of such visitors, is also growing rapidly in the UAE and is expected to generate Dh7bn by 2010, says Abu Dhabi Chamber of commerce and Industry (ADCCI).

The industry in the UAE is expected to register a 15 per cent growth per annum and hopes to receive more than 11.2 million tourists by 2010.

To cater to this growing demand, the country is developing the healthcare sector, building new communities, hotels and resorts to make it a favourite destination for medical tourism. The Dubai HealthCare City and Khalefa HealthCare City are the most prominent projects in this field.

"Healthcare tourism has grown tremendously in the Philippines and is now the number two priority for the government," said Marjorie P Lopingco, President, Spa Association of the Philippines, a speaker at the Women's Healthcare seminar, an inaugural event at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre, which has been showcasing the healthcare travel industry and highlighting the benefits of travelling abroad for preventative and curative medical procedures.

"It's not just about curative medicine, but also preventative. We see proactive people who want to take care of their bodies and reward themselves at the same time," Lopingco said.

Also speaking at the seminars was a representative of The Department of Tourism from the Philippines, who revealed some of their more popular health and wellness tourism packages, such as the Tee-off to Wellness, which contains golf, luxury hotels and massages interwoven with a comprehensive medical check-up, including routine Urinalysis, chest x-rays and blood tests.

"The Philippines is growing in popularity as a medical tourist spot due to its natural beauty and resources. We have more than 100 species of wild plants that have therapeutic value and we are known for our hospitality and healing hands," continued Lopingco.

Bringing this information to Dubai is crucial as the UAE is one of the biggest markets for out-bound medical travel, having sent out 92,000 patients overseas in 2007.  In response to this trend, IIR Middle East, the organisers of Women’s Healthcare, have announced the launch of Healthcare Travel Congress & Exhibition, which will take place at Al Bustan Rotana Hotel from 4 – 6 of November 2008.