Insights: Boosting UAE's cosmetic treatments industry
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Insights: Boosting UAE’s cosmetic treatments industry

Insights: Boosting UAE’s cosmetic treatments industry

The cosmetic treatments industry has the potential to be a key driver when it comes to boosting the UAE’s medical tourism industry, says the founder of selfologi

Tamer Wali on Cosmetic treatments - selfologi

Over the last 15 years, the UAE has invested heavily in the healthcare sector as part of wider efforts to diversify the economy. Driven by the government’s Vision 2021 for healthcare and supported by burgeoning private-sector investments, the country can be proud of its position as one of the world’s most robust healthcare hubs.

With such solid foundations in place, medical tourism continues to witness increasing growth opportunities.  Most recently, the UAE was ranked first amongst GCC countries in a list of the best global medical tourism destinations according to the Medical Tourism Association. Meanwhile, Dubai maintained its position as the top Arab destination for medical tourism, and ranked sixth in a list of 46 global destinations based on the “Global Medical Tourism Index” issued by the International Healthcare Research Center.

These recognitions are but a small reflection of the success of the country’s sophisticated infrastructure, state-of-the-art facilities, advanced equipment, and renowned medical professionals that have helped set a benchmark in international patient care services and standards and collectively bolstered the UAE’s credentials as a highly sought-after destination for world-class treatments.

Like many things, the UAE was way ahead of the game when it foresaw the true potential of medical tourism. Proactive government initiatives such as the Dubai Health Experience and the Abu Dhabi Medical Tourism portals were the first-of-their-kinds in the region to offer comprehensive assistance for patients seeking medical services across an extensive network of private and public hospitals. A patient from any part of the world can easily research and compare the quality of healthcare on offer and choose the best location for their needs.

It is this desire for credible and regulated healthcare, supplemented with a reliance on digital technology, that has the potential to equally drive the popularity of cosmetic tourism for the UAE.

When we look at the numbers, we see that the region’s cosmetic treatments industry is already worth an estimated $2.2bn annually and over a million online searches are conducted per month for cosmetic treatments in the GCC. But I believe there is an important question that we, as part of the industry, must ask ourselves: are we really showing the world that we have the most advanced treatments, the best board-certified cosmetic practitioners, and the latest technology? In the 30 years that I have been in the industry, I believe we are still very far behind in terms of openness, transparency, and showcasing the full breadth of our offerings. Despite the industry being worth billions, there is no single, trusted source of information on cosmetic treatments online.

These results are based on a survey in our early planning stages to understand the current state of the industry. What we found was shocking: a clear lack of online resources for users to make informed decisions around something as personal as cosmetic treatments. Around 67 per cent of the respondents from the UAE and Saudi Arabia typically opt for two or more types of cosmetic treatments per year, but most of them cannot find the right information online. On the other hand, 72 per cent of respondents are willing to book an aesthetic treatment online if they had the proper information. As a result, friend referrals and social media are often the primary discovery channels and their decision-making on choosing a clinic is often driven by discount deals rather than the expertise and technology available.

The medical tourism industry in the region is booming and an increased proportion of tourists who visit Dubai, for example, come only for cosmetic treatments. Booking a treatment overseas is a big personal decision, so it’s important that consumers have confidence not only in the practitioner they choose but also in the information they have access to about the treatment itself.

I strongly believe that such innovation is vital to growth, not just for a single business but for the industry as a whole. By enabling the entire ecosystem to harness their collective strengths, we hope to not only bring about a positive change across the cosmetic treatment landscape but also contribute to strengthening the UAE’s position on the global medical tourism map.

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