A cardiac procedure being performed at a Dubai hospital Image Credit: Gulf News archives. For illustrative purpose only

Dubai: Dubai is open to receiving tourists, especially health tourists, for a wide spectrum of medical and wellness treatments across all its public and private hospitals with the highest compliance to COVID 19 protocols — right from the airports and immigration to the hospitals and wellness centres. This powerful message was sent across through a webinar organised on Wednesday by the Dubai Health and Tourism Department of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

Tourists from around the world can come and avail the unique Dubai Health Experience (DXH).

In a keynote address, Dr Marwan Al Mulla, CEO of DHA’s health regulation department shared the amazing story of how a unique public-private partnership in the health sector helped combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

NAT HEALTH MEETING-1595408819827
Officials at the webinar Image Credit: Supplied

‘Providing support 24x7’

He said, “Dubai rose up to meet the challenge with over 9,000 health-care professionals and 30 private health-care facilities fighting the pandemic and managing the quarantine facilities. Over four million PCR [polymerase chain reaction] tests were conducted throughout the UAE, of which 950,000 were conducted in Dubai. Our recovery rate was over 80 per cent, our fatality rate from COVID-19 was less than 0.6 per cent. We conducted 100 field campaigns, screening people and providing 24x7 virtual doctor consultations.”

He added: “Out of a total of 3,397 health facilities licensed in the emirate, 45 were newly-established during the first half of 2020.”

Dr Al Mulla further stated that with its handling of the pandemic, Dubai had proved that it was more-than-prepared to receive tourists, especially health-care tourists who might be coming to the emirate seeking treatment backed up by the latest technologies in robotics, artificial intelligence (AI)-supported treatment, 3-D printing, cosmetic surgeries and several other sub-specialties.

Investors in healthcare sector

Other participants at the webinar included Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Sharif Beshara, group CEO of American Hospital, and Dr Tarek Fathy, CEO of Mediclinic Hospitals. The panelists discussed how the COVID-19 crisis was handled and how Dubai set an example for the rest of the world, thereby further justifying the bullish sentiments that health-care investors have expressed about the health-care sector in the emirate, thereby boosting the possibility of promoting the DXH brand among international tourists.

Prior to the pandemic, DXH had projected a footfall of about 500,000 health tourists in the emirate by 2021. Dr Abdulla said that in 2019 more than 350,118 health tourists visited Dubai and the spending on health services was Dh 796,810 911. “2019 saw 4 per cent rise in health tourism. Dubai health tourism is absolutely ready for what comes next and would like to welcome the health tourists back to an exceptional health experience” said Dr Abdulla.

Dubai among top-five 2021 destinations

Kazim from DTCM said that his organisation had launched a sustained marketing campaign to promote Dubai as the health and wellness destination in many countries around the world, post COVID-19. “From May to June, we focused on brand maintenance; from July to August we build consideration in the minds of the tourists for travel here in Q4 (fourth quarter), while at the same time providing assurance for safety,” he said.

The campaign ‘Till we meet again’ was a multi-pronged approach, using a 360-degree view of Dubai through virtual reality and involved social media influencers and leading publications that covered Russia, Europe, Australia, China, Indian and Pakistan. “Dubai figures among the top-five preferred destinations on major web portals for 2021,” he further stated.

Collaborating with global brands

Dr Beshara and Dr Fathy complimented the UAE leadership for its expert management of the pandemic that has helped rank UAE among the leading countries in the Arab region and accorded it a place among the top-ten nations in the world in the fight against COVID-19 crisis. “The vision that the rulers have for the country instils confidence for further investments in the health-care sector,” they said.

Dr Fathy said this was the reason why most leading hospitals and health-care groups were leaving no stone unturned in obtaining international accreditation, collaborating with global brands such as Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins University and investing in latest AI-driven technologies, such as robotic surgery, in all disciplines and sub-specialities. This would help make Dubai a destination of choice for health tourists, he added.

Preventive and alternative health practices

The health tourism department also plans to introduce preventive and alternative health practices such as Ayurveda, homeopathy and yoga.

Statistics have shown that the UAE’s wellness and spa travel market caters to both inbound as well domestic clients, which is about 15 per cent of the total tourism market.