Feb 12, 2021

Health tourism could boost Gulf property

Rising demand for health tourism has led to an increase in enquiries for commercial real estate, agents say.


With the growth in medical tourism and the focus on domestic Arab health issues, some property agents are seeing an increase in enquiries for real estate to accommodate incoming providers in this sector.

With local and international practices expanding across the GCC, the importance of gaining the right real estate advice is paramount to the feasibility of a project.

"Rising life expectancies, rapidly growing populations and per capita incomes, a high incidence of lifestyle-related diseases, and ambitious medical infrastructure projects are driving health care industry growth in the Middle East," says Matthew Dadd, Partner at Knight Frank. "Real estate typically represents 40 per cent of a hospital’s balance sheet—the third largest expense on the income statement and all too often, healthcare real estate is an untapped asset."

There are numerous medical clusters in the Gulf such as DHCC, Dubai and Dilmunia, Bahrain (u/c), as well as Mubadala Healthcare’s venture with the Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi. The region has great potential and growth opportunities for the resident population and for medical tourism. 

An important trend is the single destination for multiple types of medical care. Multi-speciality locations will often include medical, office and lifestyle solutions. The purpose of which is to make it more appropriate and enjoyable for customers. 

It is not just large scale projects and global brands looking at entering the Middle Eastern markets, but from smaller clinics, dentists to physiotherapists and specialist diagnostic centres. 

The demand for medical tourism is rising following a concerted effort to position Dubai as a regional hub for the sector. In 2013, the Dubai Health Authority announced a 12-year master plan to revitalise the emirate's health sector, with measures including a Dh3-billion revamp of Rashid Hospital, 40 new primary health-care centres and three new hospitals. On the sidelines of the third International Medical Travel Exhibition and Conference (Imtec) in Dubai in October, Dr Layla Al Marzouqi, Director of Health Regulation at Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said more than a quarter of a million medical tourists visited the emirate in the first half of last year. She expects a 12-13 per cent increase of medical tourists every year, with many coming for cosmetic treatment. 

The Arab Health tradeshow takes place this week at the Dubai World Trade Centre and will see exhibitors from 4,000 companies from over 100 countries, highlighting interest from the industry in the region.