Medical tourism could play a large part in the futures of both Dubai and Saudi Arabia – with the emirate attracting visitors from overseas and the kingdom catering to its own population.
That is the view of IHCC CEO Sultan Batterjee whose company has completed large scale projects in Saudi and was main contractor for Dubai’s $109m Saudi German Hospital.
“Already, in Dubai, we are seeing people coming for treatment from countries such as India, Pakistan, Iran and Russia,” he said. “Also from Africa, Nigeria in particular. These people have the money to pay for treatment but their countries do not necessarily have the level of healthcare available.
“I feel that medical projects in the UAE are becoming more specialised. People wanting treatment for cancer want to be seen by a cancer specialist. Likewise those requiring cosmetic work want to be treated by a cosmetic surgeon.
“The growth is more in developing specialist centres, day care centres, rather than building 500-bed hospitals. People want to have that more one-to-one relationship. We will see that growth over the next four to five years.”
In KSA Batterjee feels people will travel for treatment – but it is more likely to be Saudi nationals using the country’s road and developing rail network to visit specialist facilities sited in cities such as Jeddah and Riyadh from outlying regions.
He explained: “Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer in this field as so many large scale medical projects are taking place. They can be very important on a national scale.”
But Dubai could make an impact internationally, he said.
“It is a hub and easily accessible from Europe, Asia and Africa. Also if people travel with families there is a lot to offer in the way of tourist attractions.”