4% growth in medical travel to Dubai, 2019


Dubai has set an ambitious target for 2021 of 500,000 medical tourists, half from within the UAE, and half from elsewhere.

The number of international patients was projected to increase by 13% a year for the next five years after 2018, from both within the UAE and from other countries.

Dubai’s 2020 population is 2.88 million, 75% of whom are expatriates, so comparing Dubai figures with other countries is not a straight comparison.

Dubai hospitals record the citizenship of patients, not the country they are working in, so the actual medical tourism figures of people choosing to fly to Dubai for treatment, rather than of international patients already in Dubai, are still an unknown.

This highlights the global disparity in medical tourism statistics. If people are counted travelling within states of the UAE as international medical tourists, then the same rules should apply for example to the UK, USA and India.

Most business comes from within the Gulf region and Dubai attracted fewer medical tourists from Europe or Asia. International patients from Europe are mainly expatriates working in the MENA region.

More specifically from the DHA 2019 data:

  • 34% of these ‘medical tourists’ were from Asia compared to 30% in 2018.
  • The number from the UAE and other Gulf states was 28% compared to 33% in 2018.
  • 17% are from Europe compared to 16% in 2018, while 10% are now from Africa.
  • 10% are from the Americas and elsewhere, the latter two categories combined in 2018 at 21%.

During the first half of 2020, DHA issued 3,397 licences to health facilities in Dubai, while 45 new health facilities, a hospital, and 10 general and specialised medical clinics were inaugurated during the period.

Dermatology, dental and orthopaedics were the most sought-after medical tourism specialities in 2019. Fertility and ophthalmology were some of the other niche specialities that attracted medical tourists to the emirate. This is almost identical to 2018.



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