With Dubai and Abu Dhabi ranked among the top 10 global destinations for people travelling overseas to obtain medical treatment, the GCC has secured the title "medical tourism capital of the world", with the UAE ranked first in the GCC, as per a new global index.
The latest Medical Tourism Index for 2020-2021 ranked Dubai and Abu Dhabi ninth globally. Among GCC countries, Oman was ranked second and Bahrain came in at third, according to the Medical Tourism Association. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have been placed fourth and sixth, respectively.
Overall, Canada took the crown as the No.1 destination for medical tourism on the index developed by the International Healthcare Research Centre based on American perceptions of medical care in 46 places abroad. The US was followed by Singapore, Japan, Spain, the UK, Dubai, Costa Rica, Israel, Abu Dhabi and India among the top 10.
The destinations were rated in different criteria, including the state of the medical tourism industry, destination attractiveness and quality of care.
The rankings in the index are based on a variety of factors, including the destination environment, patient experience, current levels of medical tourism, and the attractiveness of traditional tourism.
Judges praised Dubai's "comprehensive system", while Oman was noted as a "high quality healthcare destination". Bahrain's high number of annual visitors and connection to neighbouring Saudi Arabia via the 25-kilometre King Fahd Causeway were highlighted as key factors in its ranking as a medical tourism destination.
Prominent health institutions have been operating in the region - including the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, which operates in Bahrain, along with the planned $270 million King Abdulla Medical City, which provides opportunities for further healthcare investment.
Bahrain is becoming a regional leader in specialised healthcare - with particular strength in cardiology and oncology - offering exciting growth opportunities, a centralised location and promising talent. A focus on medical technology is driven by strong technical infrastructure, which also helps to provide more research data to enhance medical practices.
The value of the GCC medical tourism market was about $15.5 billion in 2017, and it is expected to grow to $28 billion by the end of 2024, with a compound annual growth rate of about 8.8 per cent between 2018 and 2024.
According to the International Medical Travel Journal, global medical tourism spends on foreign treatment for GCC citizens amount to more than $2 billion per year. This high level of demand has resulted in an increase in local facilities offering new options for citizens, residents and tourists alike.
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