UAE battles stiff competition

by Jane Ferguson ,  Gulfnews | 2009-03-23

Against a backdrop of experts attributing great growth potential to medical tourism, the UAE is hoping to beat stiff competition from traditional medical hotspots such as India.

Although certain Asian cities offer cheaper treatments, analysts say low cost is not the only factor involved. By seeking value for money, a destination offering the best quality of treatment for a price that is still competitive with those in the home countries of patients, will claim a large piece of the pie.

A recent Deloitte survey reported that 150,000 US citizens experienced medical treatment abroad in 2006 - the majority being in Asia and Latin America, said Dr Prem Jagyasi, managing director and CEO of ExHealth, based in DHCC .

"The number grew to an estimated 750,000 in 2007 and could reach as high as 6 million by 2010," he added. "According to the survey, by 2017, 23 million American travellers are expected to travel to Latin America, Asia and Middle East and will spend $60 billion in just the next few years."

The medical tourism industry in the UAE can be described as fledgling when compared to more established destinations such as India or Thailand. The World Bank's recommendations, however, shed light on how the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) district can compete better. Moving up the "quality chain" is vital, they say, offering exclusive treatment and combining that with cultural and tourist activities. Western language offerings by doctors and nurses are also recommended.

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