Economic woes hit Dubai's health projects


The fate of a high profile international project indicates troubled times for Dubai’s healthcare building projects. Dubai’s third-largest property firm may cancel a proposed Formula 1 theme park if it fails to receive government cash or tap debt markets.

The project timeline for the proposed theme park has already been postponed. The plan was to fund the park with the sale of houses, but UAE property markets have collapsed and banks are unwilling to lend to the property sector.

Marriott International’s global expansion plans over the next five years of 30 new hotels in the Gulf region, including 17 new hotels in the UAE, nine in Saudi Arabia, three in Qatar and one in Bahrain. But construction is not going to be soon as the global economic slowdown hits, with the UAE’s hotel trade is suffering more than other Gulf countries. UAE hotels have slashed room rates in a bid to stimulate business.

The medical tourism industry in UAE is not immune to the global financial crisis either.

Indeed, Dubai’s attempt to take business from Asian medical destinations such as India by creating local brands to attract international patients maybe in jeopardy. DeveloperTatweer has apparently put some projects in its major project Dubai Healthcare City  (DHCC) on hold.

The most well-known medical tourism project in the Middle East, DHCC is designed not only to attract medical tourists but also to reduce the need for residents to travel abroad to receive high quality treatment.

Although the government-owned business is keeping quiet about what it is or is not doing, details of some future projects have vanished from the DHCC website, and the sole survivor no longer gives expected completion dates.

The current debate is whether in tough times, medical tourism will accelerate in countries offering lower cost, or a lack of cash will reduce the demand for non life-threatening surgeries like cosmetic surgery, dentistry, and Lasik/laser procedures. Dubai’s problem is that by selling itself as a high-cost, high-quality destination, it loses out whichever argument is true. Healthcare tourism isn't recession proof, and new destinations will find it harder than ever to break into the market.



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