A health tourist is defined as any individual who crosses borders to receive healthcare or wellness treatments. This trend is here to stay, as evidenced by ever-rising number of travelers seeking to disconnect from their stressful lives and embarking on quests for inner peace. The fact that Dubai welcomed 337,011 international health tourists in 2018 reaffirms this trend. The total medical expenditure from international patients amounted to AED 1.16 billion.
According to the data submitted through e-sources system, majority of international patients are coming from Arab and GCC countries, followed by other Asian countries and Europeans. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman are the leading source markets of Arab and GCC wellness tourists, while Indians, and Pakistanis topped Asian nationalities in terms of numbers. Top nationalities from European countries were from Italy, UK and France.
According to Global Wellness Institute the shifts in the global wellness landscape, both domestic and inbound wellness trips across MENA grew from 8.5 million in 2015 to 11 million in 2017, leading to the growth of revenues from USD 8.3 billion in 2015 to USD 11 billion. This is expected to grow another 75 per cent to reach USD 18.7 billion by 2022 and the UAE will be at the forefront of this growth. Another interesting fact is that the MENA wellness travelers are high spenders, spending 44 per cent more on inbound wellness trips than the average traveler to the region.
Robust & growing healthcare sector
Dubai’s healthcare sector comprises both public and private institutions, with more than 85 per cent hospitals enjoying international accreditations. These include 3,371 DHA-licensed health facilities, comprising37 Hospitals, 1,212 multidisciplinary medical facilities, 935 pharmacies and 50 centers for surgery in addition to other facility categories. The availability of highly-skilled, DHA-licensed 39,981 healthcare professionals includingdoctors, nurses and allied health professionals of 110 different nationalities, 80 per cent of them from outside of the UAE, add immense value to the emirate’s success in this sphere.Apart from services delivered by these exceptionally talented professionals, most of the listed health tourism members also offer translator services to further enhance patient experience.
Evolving wellness sector
The Global Wellness Institute Symposium, which was held as part of the recently concluded Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2019, revealed that MENA’s annual wellness tourism market is growing 13.3 percent, boasting a thriving spa industry and thermal springs sectors, to reach USD 10.7 billion. The spa industry, whichcontinues to grow at 15.4 per cent yearly, is now valued at USD 2.8 billion, while MENA thermal/mineral springs market is enjoying the number one recent growth rate worldwide, at 30 per cent a year.
The UAE currently leads the top 10 MENA wellness tourism markets with USD 1.8 million – USD 3.75 billion in terms of expenditure, thanks to concerted efforts to constantly enhance the industry’s quality standards in line with global best practices. The spa sector’s contribution to this growth is quite notable. Spas have become an inevitable part of hotels/resorts from mid-price up and the latest facts and figures indicate that MENA’s spa industry is now keeping pace with the region’s highly developed hospitality market. Ranking among the top 20 spa markets in the worldwith USD 873 million in yearly spa revenues, the UAE is a leader in this sector as well.
An array of upcoming wellness centers that aim to deliver innovative healing experiences further underscore the country’s aspirations for the advancement of the sector. The UAE’s Alma Retreat is a comprehensive, affordable wellness camp focused on bringing back-to-desert-nature experiences to the Emirates. The CorinthiaMeydan Beach, set to open in Dubai’s beachfront in 2020, will deliver their holistic, ancient-meets-modern approaches to spa, fitness, nutrition and mindfulness. Meanwhile, Lux Al Zorah, which will open in Ajman in 2021, will offer wellbeing safaris in nature to an integrated wellness Vitalité programs to discerning wellness tourists who flock to the UAE. Furthermore, the first One&Only Urban Resorts (Za‘abeel) will also open in Dubai in 2020, once again underscoring the emirate’s role in constantly supporting the UAE’s unprecedented growth in the sector.