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Cosmetic and plastic surgery boom in the UAE

June 1, 2017
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: The country aims to host 1.3 million medical tourists per year by 2021, and needs medical equipment to support the growing industry.

Cosmetic and plastic surgery are on the rise in the Middle East as favored methods of enhancing personal appearance. With the United Arab Emirates (UAE) leading the way, the medical aesthetics industry is gaining popularity in the region; statistics from recent years show an increase in the number of patients (both local and international) opting for cosmetic and plastic surgery. According to data released by the Global Wellness Institute, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is classified as the world’s second fastest growing wellness travel market.

The UAE health care industry in UAE is expected to grow at a rate of 7 percent between 2015 and 2020 (RNCOS, UAE Healthcare Sector Outlook 2020). Medical tourism is one of the key factors driving this growth. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has set a goal of attracting 1.3 million medical tourists per year by 2021, which could inject up to $600 million (AED 2.2 billion) into the economy. The aesthetics industry is set to be among the most important contributors of medical tourism in the UAE. This can be attributed to a significant increase in the number of regional patients, as well as a surge in internationally trained industry professionals based in the region: the number of plastic surgeons per capita in Dubai is among the highest in the world.

Dubai is becoming Middle East’s medical tourism hotspot, and aims to be among the world’s top-performing nations in terms of health care quality. As a part of bringing Dubai closer to its goal of 1.3 million medical tourists by 2021, the DHA launched a major initiative, the Dubai Health Experience program. It is the world’s first comprehensive electronic medical tourism portal that promises to provide all health, travel, hospitality and visa services in the form of medical packages. These packages will include procedures such as wellness; cosmetic and dental services; ophthalmology; orthopedics and physiotherapy; and specialized medical tests, among others.

Due to an ongoing slump affecting sectors including the luxury goods market, consumer spending has generally declined, but people remain willing to spend on aesthetic medicine, particularly non-surgical enhancements, according to Dr. Maurizio Viel of the London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery in Dubai. This is largely due to an affluent customer base in the region. Dr. Luiz Toledo, Scientific Director of the Emirates Plastic Surgery Society, noted that there has been a steady increase in the number of foreign clients, with patients coming from 82 countries in 2015. During the same year, Dubai’s hospitals and clinics received 630,000 medical tourists from outside the emirate, of which 47 percent were overseas patients and the rest from other parts of the UAE. By 2020, the emirate expects around 500,000 patients from outside the country.

In 2016, Dubai saw a 12 percent rise in medical tourism as patients increasingly sought treatment for orthopedic conditions and cosmetic surgeries. Layla Mohamed Al Marzouqi, director of the DHA’s Health Regulation Department, said the growth was on par with global trends this year.

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