The GCC has been hailed the ‘medical tourism capital of the world’ as all its member countries ranked on a new global index of leading destinations to seek treatment.
The UAE placed first among GCC countries, according to the Medical Tourism Association, while Oman ranked second and Bahrain came in at third. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait placed fourth and sixth respectively.
Saudi Arabia currently boasts 2.2 hospital beds for every 1000 people and continual improvements to the national healthcare system in both the public and private sector are key to Vision 2030.
Bahrain’s high number of annual visitors and connection to neighbouring Saudi Arabia via the 25-kilometre King Fahd Causeway were highlighted as key factors in its ranking as a medical tourism destination. Last year Bahrain received 11 million visitors with 88 per cent (8.7 million) arriving in the country via the King Fahd Causeway. Saudi investment in Bahrain includes Al Hokail Medical Group and the recently announced $30 million Bahrain Pharma.
Bahrain is becoming a regional leader in specialised healthcare with a particular strength in cardiology and oncology. A focus on medical technology is driven by strong technical infrastructure, which also helps to provide more research data to enhance medical practices.
The value of the medical tourism market was about $15.5 billion in 2017, and it is expected to grow to 28 billion dollars by the end of 2024, with a compound annual growth rate of about 8.8 per cent between 2018 and 2024.