x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dubai offers hospital-based holiday packages

The idea is that the patient would pay a set cost for an entire package, including airline ticket, hotel accommodation and leisure activities.

DUBAI // When most people think of medical treatment, they do not automatically associate it with a holiday involving a hotel stay and fun leisure activities.

But this is the sort of package patients from abroad could have in Dubai in the future.

Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is working closely with the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) to boost medical tourism in the emirate, with healthcare providers and the hospitality sector involved.

The plan is to try to provide "a complete package" for medical tourists, said Laila Al Jassmi, chief executive of health policy and strategy at DHA.

"So those who come for hospital treatments, they can have a good package, with certain hotels to provide the accommodation, with all the leisure that they would require with their treatment package," she said.

It would not just be the patient who would get to enjoy some of the activities on offer in Dubai. Market research has shown that most medical tourists do not travel alone and take others, such as family, with them, Ms Al Jassmi said.

The idea is that the patient would pay a set cost for an entire package, including hotel, leisure activities and, potentially, an airline ticket.

"Now, when you are visiting any country for tourism, you get a package of a hotel, of an airline ticket and you sometimes get a package of certain leisures with that package," Ms Al Jassmi said.

"We are trying to modify that, with the health service that we are providing.

"We are working along with the hospitality sector to try to put these two sectors together."

More than 50 hospitals and healthcare centres across Dubai will be marketed as part of the initiative. Former Soviet countries, Europe, MENA and South Asia are being targeted.

"They have the highest number of tourists who are coming to Dubai, through the DTCM statistics," explained Ms Al Jassmi.

"Also, looking at those countries, they have a great number of outbound [people] who are travelling outside the country seeking medical treatments."

A similar time zone with Dubai and a good flight network are also factors in targeting countries.

The emirate will focus on specific treatments that research has shown are popular among tourists in Dubai and procedures for which people in the target countries are prepared to travel abroad.

They include ophthalmology, dental, orthopaedic, plastic surgery, non-surgical cosmetic procedures, spa and wellness treatments and alternative medicines.

More specialities may be added as the initiative grows, said Ms Al Jassmi.

Medical tourist Rola Fahad has already benefited from healthcare facilities in the emirate after travelling from Saudi Arabia for liposuction and body contouring at Dubai's American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery.

"I had a great experience - the service and patient care was excellent," said the 38-year-old.

Dubai's healthcare facilities are being showcased at the Moscow Medical and Health Tourism Congress, which started on Wednesday and finishes on Sunday, and at the International Medical Travel and Exhibition Conference 2013, which takes place in Monaco this weekend. Representatives from DHA, DTCM, Dubai Healthcare City and some of the emirate's hospitals are attending.

"For medical tourists the city offers internationally accredited, state-of-the-art healthcare facilities, highly qualified and internationally recognised healthcare professionals and an efficient regulatory system that ensures safe and quality treatment," said Mr Eyad Abdulrahman, executive director of media relations and business development at the DTCM.

It is estimated that about 100,000 tourists used healthcare services in Dubai in 2012.

ecleland@thenational.ae