Report predicts medical and health tourism growth

 

The report recommends that to revive MENA tourism, governments, private investors and operators need to focus beyond traditional medical tourism and spas.  They should instead offer a wider range of services that encompass healthcare and wellness services to achieve sustainable recovery and growth attracting local, regional and international tourists. 

With global travel restrictions only now easing and hotels reopening, tourism and hospitality are two of most affected sectors. The health and wellness sector can act as a catalyst to revive both in the MENA region. Typical wellness packages would include; beauty, cosmetic, weight loss, fitness / skills treatments, diet and nutrition.

Based on a survey conducted by the Colliers MENA Hotels team in April 2020, 79% of hotel owners in the MENA region partially or fully closed their hotels due to low occupancy rates and 54% expect the market to take 6-12 months to return to 2019 occupancy levels. 

Once travel restrictions are lifted, travellers will have to adopt to new rules, which will require COVID-19 testing, social distancing and many other new practices and policies.

The report states that medical and health tourism is set to drive market growth, and recommends that tour and hotel operators in major cities such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Jeddah, and Cairo, should affiliate with local hospitals known to provide good quality of care.

For resorts outside main cities, including coastal resorts in Egypt, Jordan, Oman, UAE and Saudi Arabia, hotel operators may have to combine to provide the support facilities.

Colliers elaborated that this may take the form of shared capital cost to establish a suitable healthcare facility. As with hotel branding, consideration could be given to healthcare brands that would enhance the attraction of the overall destination.

Once established, the facility would also serve the permanent catchment population, to improve profitability, alongside tourists and those owning holiday homes.

Colliers highlighted the establishment of public-private partnership healthcare facilities as another option. Such facilities are considered as a public good, and governments provide regulatory and financial incentives to attract private investors and operators.

To make these hospitals more profitable and attractive to investors and operators, other health and wellness packages could be offered as part of tourism packages. These have the additional positive impact on tourism and hospitality sectors as wellness tourists can often extend their length of stay. Typical wellness packages would include beauty, cosmetic, weight loss, fitness/skills treatments, diet and nutrition treatments, rehabilitation treatment for trauma, accident and mental health, and other health driven wellness treatments.

The report suggested some other long-term offerings for tourism. It noted an increase in demand for services focusing on rejuvenation and anti-aging, with bariatric surgery fast becoming the next front in the battle against obesity. 

It also suggests demand for outpatient surgical centres has increased regionally, due to greater prevalence of lifestyle diseases. The fitness industry is also tapping in on this, by upgrading with fitness slimming getaway programmes in holiday locations.

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