Medical Tourism Network in Abu Dhabi

Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD), the regulator of the healthcare sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) signed an agreement to establish a medical tourism network for international patients travelling to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi for healthcare and treatment services.

Through this agreement, HAAD and TCA Abu Dhabi aim to develop an integrated and comprehensive network of best-in-class service providers for international patients seeking specialised medical treatment and expertise in Abu Dhabi.

The network will also ensure that patients and their families are provided with holistic services while they are being treated in the Emirate. All organisations interested in joining this network are being invited to contact HAAD for registration through

The entities registered under the medical tourism network will offer international patients a variety of complementary services that they may need throughout the duration of their stay. Example members include: healthcare facilities, on ground transportation agencies, airline travel and tourism companies, as well as retail outlets throughout the country.

In addition, members could be a variety of organisations from other sectors in Abu Dhabi that would help the planned network achieve its goals. Furthermore, the network will be developed with integrated operational standards that work in tandem with the Ministry of Interior’s unified visa system.

The agreement was signed by Dr. Asma Al Mannaei, director of the Healthcare Quality Division at HAAD, and Sultan Al Dhaheri, acting executive director, tourism sector, on behalf of TCA Abu Dhabi.

Those admitted into the planned network will be selected primarily based on their performance in the Abu Dhabi Quality Index Programme (JAWDA) – launched by HAAD in 2014.

The programme will drive the emirate’s medical tourism objectives, acting as a dedicated initiative, supporting the development of healthcare offerings within the Emirate, forging closer links with the industry and providing administrative support to these partnerships.


Top 10 Destinations for Dental Tourism


India’s Dentists are world class and know globally for Dental Tourism.Some of the famous treatments are Dental Implants,Dentures and Dental Aesthetics.


Hop on a plane for treatment in a resort town like Cabo San Lucas, Cancun or Puerto Vallarta. Or, take a short drive across the border for excellent care at a discounted price. Most frequent visitors: Americans, Canadians.

Thailand boasts some of the largest and most modern dental hospitals in the entire world. Tens of thousands of dental tourists have been successfully treated by expert dentists in a tropical locale. Most frequent visitors: Australians, Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders. Some of Thailands top rated clinics include Bangkok International Dental Center and Sea Smile Dental Clinic in Phuket.

Dentistry has always been more affordable in Spain. Now, Spain’s economy is undergoing severe deflation, pushing down the price of dental care even further. Most frequent visitors: English, Irish & Germans.

Standing at the gateway between the ancient and the modern, dental tourists have discovered the cultural gem of Turkey while receiving dental care from skilled professionals.

Czech Republic
Premier dental care for an affordable price, right in the heart of historic Prague. Fly in to Prague on a low-cost-carrier airline for less than the price of a filling. Most frequent visitors: English, Swiss, Germans & Austrians.

The Emirates have tailored the entire city of Dubai to cater to the needs of all travelers, dental tourists included. Enjoy the lap of luxury in the middle east while saving thousands on dental care. Most frequent visitors: Americans, Germans, Swiss, English & Austrians.

The Philippines is an exotic tropical destination with excellent dentistry for a reasonable prices. Enjoy renowned hospitality while you receive your care. Most frequent visitors: Americans, Canadians, Australians, Kiwis.

World class dental care just a quick plane or train ride from Western Europe and Scandinavia. Most frequent visitors: Germans, Austrians, English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegians.

Costa Rica
Enjoy the renowned natural beauty of Costa Rica while receiving treatment from friendly, experienced, American trained dentists. Save money of dental care while experiencing the trip of a lifetime. Most frequent visitors: Americans, Canadians.

Hungary is Europe’s premier destination for dental tourism, with world renowned dentists, state of the art facilities and highly skilled dentists. Come see why patients from around the world have made Hungary the most popular European dental destination. Most frequent visitors: English, Irish, Germans, Austrians, Americans, Danish, and French.

Kenya to host mega conference to boost health tourism

Kenya is set to host a mega conference next week to explore effective ways of making nascent health and medical tourism a vibrant socio-economic sector, organizers disclosed on Wednesday.The conference themed, “Making Kenya the preferred health and medical tourism destination” being spearheaded by the Vision 2030 delivery secretariat is scheduled for May 22.

Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat Director General, Dr. Julius Muia has said a review by the secretariat in 2013 through a health tourism situational analysis shows the country has a huge potential for health tourism market.

“Therefore, there is need to look into areas of development within the health and tourism sectors to capture the opportunities in this growing industry, Dr. Muia told reporters in Nairobi.

Development of innovative tourism products and boosting quality and access to universal healthcare services are key deliverables under the Vision 2030 national dream.

Approximately 10,000 Kenyans travel abroad for health related reasons and spend between 7($6 million) – 10 billion shillings ($9 million) annually with a vast majority travelling to India.

The common services that these Kenyans go out to seek for are Oncology, Nephrology, Cardiology and heart procedures, and elective surgical procedures.
However, Kenya has over the last few years shown potential for robust growth in medical tourism market with foreigners from Eastern and Central Africa as well non-African health tourists have shown appetite for the destination.

“Eastern and Central Africa is the main source of foreigners seeking health and health related services in Kenya. A smaller number comprising non-African health tourists choose Kenya due to the diversity of tourism destinations and experiences,” added Dr. Muia.

About 3,000-5,000 foreigners visit Kenya every year for health and health-related reasons.

Fast-paced lifestyles, on the back of rapid growth of middle income population in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa is also presenting an increasing demand for wellness tourism products.

Key International actors have also been invited to deliberate and strategize on making health and medical tourism a vibrant socio-economic sector in Kenya.

Health Care and Medical Tourism in India and Asian Countries


South Korea’s Medical Tourism

Medical tourists surpass 360,000

The number of foreigners visiting Korea for medical purposes jumped 23 percent in 2016 from a year earlier, the government said Thursday.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the number of medical tourists increased to 364,189 last year from 296,889 in 2015. Meanwhile, revenue from them surpassed 860 billion won ($760 million), a record high.

Korea’s medical tourism boom seems unaffected by the Chinese government’s retaliation over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system here.

China accounted for 35.1 percent of the visitors with 127,648, followed by the United States with 48,788 (13.3 percent), Japan with 26,702 (7.3 percent), Russia with 25,533 (7 percent) and Kazakhstan with 15,010 (4.1 percent).

When it comes to expenditures per patient, the United Arab Emirates, which accounted for 3,562 of the visitors, was the highest with 12 million won, followed by Thailand (5.2 million won) and Kazakhstan (4.2 million won). The ministry said 284 patients spent more than 100 million won.

Contrary to popular belief, plastic surgery wasn’t the biggest attraction for them, accounting for only 11.3 percent or 47,881 of the total patients.

Internal medicine accounted for 20 percent, followed by plastic surgery and dermatological treatments (11.1 percent). Demand grew especially for dermatology, gynecology and medical checkups.

The increased demand for dermatological treatments is attributed largely to Japanese visitors, while Russians and Mongolians seeking to treat infertility is the main reason for the increased demand for gynecology, the ministry noted.

More than half of medical tourists chose Seoul. About 78 percent received treatment in the capital or cities in Gyeonggi Province, down by 2 percent compared with 2015.

For hospitals in non-metropolitan regions to share the fruits of medical tourism, the ministry has tried hard to promote them over the past few years. The ministry reckons more medical institutions in various cities will benefit from the trend in the coming years.

The ministry’s ambition is to increase the current number of medical tourists to 1 million by 2020.

Past numbers show the goal isn’t far-fetched. Amounting only to 60,201 in 2009, medical tourists soared to 122,297 in 2011 and 266,501 in 2014. The revenue made in 2009 was about 54.9 billion won.

The ministry believes there is still a great deal of potential for growth.

Ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which will begin on Feb. 9, the ministry plans to put more effort into promoting the country’s quality medical services.

Iran’s Medical Tourism

Despite making good progress in the field of medical tourism, Iran is unlikely to meet its self-stated goals by 2025, an official at the Health Ministry said.

Speaking at a meeting with senior provincial medical experts, Mohammad Hossein Mirdehqan, director of Monitoring and Accreditation of Medical Services Office at the ministry, said the country is expected to increase its capacity to host health tourists by seven to eight times but “that’s not going to happen”, YJC reported.

“We are also projected to attract between 500,000 and 600,000 medical tourists every year based on the sixth economic development plan (2017-21), but that too is unlikely to happen,” he said.

Medical tourism is less dependent on how developed a country’s travel industry is and more reliant on the quality of its medical services, which is why Iran is pinning hopes on this sector.

“Health tourism is a $150-billion industry,” Mirdehqan said. “A medical tourist spends between $3,600 and $7,600 on every trip, so we need to devise and implement plans to bring that money to Iran.”

The official did not mention the source of his data. However, according to a report last year by Big Market Research, the global medical tourism market is predicted to reach $143 billion by 2022.

According to Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, the country’s annual revenue from health tourism is between $400 million and $500 million, while the target is to reach $2.5 billion by 2025.

Mohammad Panahi, vice president of the Association for Development of Medical Tourism Services, said earlier this year that revenues from health tourism were “around $1.2 billion” in 2016.

Mirdehqan said women of ages 45 to 65 make up the bulk of Iran’s inbound health tourists, but did not mention the number of medical tourists traveling to Iran every year.

Some 400 hospitals are active in the field of health tourism, but only 170 have been granted permits to launch an International Patients Department.

The high cost of private treatment and low quality health systems in regional countries mean there is a demand for medical services available in Iran. Those from Muslim countries are particularly attracted to Iran as they feel safer and more satisfied than in most Arab or Asian countries offering similar services.

Geographical proximity, hot and cold mineral springs in various parts of the country as well as low-cost and high quality health services in the fields of fertility treatment, stem cell treatment and dialysis, as well as heart, cosmetic and eye surgeries, have created new opportunities in Iran’s health tourism—a growth industry in many countries.

Hair Transplantation in Turkey

Walk through Taksim Square, the center of modern Istanbul, and you’ll see them: groups of men wandering around with their heads swaddled in bandages or bright-red marks shaped like boomerangs stretching from temple to temple at the crowns of their heads.
They’re a sign of one of Turkey’s fastest-growing industries. In the last few years, despite a significant decline in tourism more broadly, the country has become a destination for medical tourists seeking hair-transplant operations. Emin Çakmak, head of the development council of health tourism of Turkey, told the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet that around 750,000 health tourists visited Turkey last year; about 60,000 come for hair transplants every year. Huyesin Kirk, chairman of the Middle East Tourism and Travel Agencies Association, estimates that there are between 150-500 hair transplant surgeries performed every week.
Hair transplants are an exacting and expensive operation where a doctor or technician makes thousands of small incisions at the front of the scalp, then takes hair follicles from the back of the head and inserts them into those incisions in the front. When it works, it results in new hair growth and is one of the only methods to combat baldness. When an operation is botched, the hair will grow in an unnatural direction and there’s a high risk for skin infection and scarring.
Aziz Khellout, a 28-year-old from Algeria, came to Istanbul in 2017 after his hair started falling out about three years ago. On Feb. 23, he sat nervously in a the lobby of a hair clinic, his head swaddled in bandages. He was excited to get his hair back. “Normally I’m self-confident. But since I started losing my hair, my self-confidence went down and down. I just want it back again,” he said. Khellout found the clinic on Facebook; he was impressed by the before-and-after pictures friends had posted. So he flew to Istanbul.
Aziz Khellout
Aziz Khellout, from Algeria, after having a hair transplant completed at Clinic Expert in Istanbul. (Pesha Magid)
A hair transplant operation in Turkey is not just a medical procedure. Almost every clinic in Istanbul offers a package deal: You get picked up from the airport and brought to your hotel by a private driver supplied by the clinic. Your hotel room will have already been booked by the clinic and you don’t need to worry about transportation on the day of the procedure—the clinic handles that, too.
And people come in droves because while a hair transplant costs up to $25,000 in the US and Europe, in Istanbul, it ranges from just $600 to $2,000.
In part that’s because competition between the city’s clinics is intense. There are now tons of them—“They are springing up like rabbits,” says Talip Tastemel, the general manager of Clinic Expert, one of the biggest hair transplant clinics in Turkey—and many are willing to go to extreme measures to bring down costs to draw in clients looking for a cheap deal. Tastemel says the competition has led clinics hire under-qualified people to perform operations in order to cut costs.
Tastemel admits that even at Clinic Expert, doctors do not perform the majority of operations—despite legal requirements that all hair transplant operations in Turkey be performed by doctors. “After years of work, these nurses and technicians require a minimum level of supervision. But the doctors generally intervene with the complicated cases and complications,” he says.
Most clinics completely disregard the rule. In the past five or six years, the race for clients has outweighed concerns about quality. Tayfun Oguzoglu, a doctor who runs an upscale facility called Advanced Hair Clinic, says it’s common for patients to meet a doctor for a consultation before an operation and be led to believe that the doctor will be performing the surgery—when in fact, it ends up being done by a nurse or technician.
A nurse performing a hair transplant at the Clinic Expert hair transplant clinic in Istanbul. (Peha Magid)
The clinics get away with it, says Oguzoglu, because inspectors from the Health Ministry are more than willing to take bribes in exchange for a warning that an official inspection is coming. “Someone pays the big money,” he says, and when the inspection happens, the clinic makes itself look like its operating fully above board. The Health Ministry did not respond to Quartz’s request for comment.
Cheap hair transplant surgery is one of the only things still bringing visitors to Turkey. In the wake of several terror attacks and a failed military coup, tourism in Turkey declined sharply in 2016. It hasn’t rebounded—except in one sector: hair transplant tourism.
Clinic proprietors say it’s because the majority of their clients hail from Middle Eastern countries—Bugra Ersin Murtezaoglu, the general manager of Natural Hair Turkey, estimates 90% of his clients come from the Middle East. They are, he says, less likely to be spooked about Turkey’s political upheaval than Europeans and North Americans. Indeed, Oguzoglu who markets primarily to Europe and the US, says he was badly affected by both the coup attempt in July and the attack on the popular Reina nightclub on New Year’s that left 39 dead.
There’s a side effect to these unique circumstances: a mini-economy has sprung up within the hair transplant industry for Syrian refugees, who are valuable because they speak Arabic.
Ahmed, a Syrian refugee who asked that we not use any identifying details out of fear of repercussion, has worked in the industry for a year recruiting clients and then shepherding them through the process. He’s the one who answers their late-night calls with questions about the operation and he translates between clients and Turkish staff once they arrive. He says Syrian employees are often exploited by their employers who see them as disposable. “They will have you work 10 hours each day and only give you one day off [per week]” he says. “Still you have the phone and you have to work, so you are not off. If you do not answer the phone, then you will receive a punishment. Maybe they will cut from your salary, maybe they will cut from your off days.”
Mahmoud, who also asked to remain anonymous, is another Syrian refugee and veteran of the Istanbul hair-transplant industry. He has worked at three different companies calling clients and says the intense competition between clinics means that employers are constantly searching for ways to cut costs—often at the price of their employees.
For example, clinics often pay poverty-level base salaries and offer commissions on top of that—but then set unreasonable sales quotas that make it impossible to earn any commissions. “I know one company, where if you don’t reach your quota they will add it onto the next month,” says Mahmoud. “I saw one guy who had a $120,000 quota. He couldn’t leave the job because he has a family, so he is working on the basic salary which is 1,500 Turkish Lira”—about $400 a month.
Hair follicles that have been removed and are awaiting transplantation at the Clinic Expert in Istanbul. (Pesha Magid)
Mahmoud says the situation is especially difficult for Syrian refugees, many of whom do not have official working permits and therefore no legal recourse if they are treated badly by employers. Because it is difficult for Syrians to find employment in Turkey, he says, many are afraid to leave their jobs despite long work hours and low pay.
Nicholas Grisewood, a specialist in the crisis migration branch of the International Labor Organization (ILO), says many of the issues described by Syrian refugees in the hair transplant industry are common to the many Syrian refugees throughout Turkey. “Refugees are willing to accept conditions that Turkish people are not willing to. They will put themselves at risk for the simple reason of survival,” he explains. While the ILO has not studied the hair transplant industry in particular, Grisewood says they have observed that many refugees are underpaid, work long hours, and do not have work permits.
Emre Eren Korkmaz, a researcher at the International Migration Institute, concurs. “As a consequence of bureaucratic process and conditions to obtain work permits,” he says, “Syrian refugees are generally employed in informal economy which means that they are not registered to the social security system and they cannot enjoy their basic rights and liberties such as freedom of association, health and safety, working hours, minimum wage.”
Both Murtezaoglu and Tastemel vehemently deny Syrian employees are mistreated in any way. “In general in health care you have to answer your phone day and night, this is a general requirement in this domain. This is not because they are Syrian and being abused,” says Tastemel. “To be honest, a lot of refugees and Syrians are making a decent life and salary because of this market. Normally there are not a lot of opportunities for refugees.