High quality of medical care, experienced physicians, specialized treatments and proximity are the main reasons why medical tourists are flocking to Dubai.

Dubai has a bold ambition to become a major global medical tourism hub. As part of its strategy to attract 500,000 medical tourists every year to the emirate by 2020, it is in the process of building 22 new hospitals at a strategic location, offering the quality of healthcare that is on par with the best of the world, and delivered by highly-trained care providers.

A recent survey of physicians validates how far Dubai has come in realizing its medical tourism vision. At least 80 percent of doctors cited the high quality of medical care as the main reason why medical tourists are flocking to Dubai. About 61 percent said the availability of trained physicians as another major reason, while 48 percent said specialist treatments and 36 percent cited geographic proximity as other reasons.

About 94 percent of physicians anticipate a high influx of medical tourists this year and beyond.

The survey was conducted by respondents in the 120 medical facilities in Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), the emirate’s top medical tourism, education and research hub. It covers the six-month period from January 2014 to June 2014. DHCC has served a million patients as of 2013, approximately 15 percent of them medical tourists, according to a press release from the office of the healthcare free economic zone launched in 2002 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai.

Almost half of these medical tourists, or 48 percent, come from the surrounding Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and 32 percent from other Arab countries. Patients from Eastern and Western Europe, a key target clientele, represented more than a quarter, or 26 percent of all medical tourists. Asian patients, who have other options in other Asian countries who have long established themselves as medical tourism destinations, accounted for nearly a quarter, or 23 percent of clients for Dubai facilities.

Infertility procedures, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection, and intrauterine insemination, topped the list of treatments sought. Cosmetic treatments, dental procedures, cardiac care, and orthopedic procedures round out the top five. In comparison, the top treatments sought by medical tourists worldwide are cosmetic surgery, dentistry, orthopedic and heart surgery, according to the DHCC, which cited figures from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions.

“Hearing from our partners, who are in regular contact with medical tourists, on their views and the feedback they receive is essential to helping us improve our offerings. As a strategic priority for DHCC, we are committed to increasing the flow of medical tourists visiting Dubai,” Marwan Abedin, Chief Executive Officer of DHCC, said in astatement. “We can achieve this with regular feedback and cooperation among our partner clinics and hospitals as well as medical tourism facilitators.”

According to the survey, 94 percent of medical facilities in Dubai use websites, social media, word of mouth and medical tourism agencies to reach out and attract more medical tourists. In May, the DHCC inked a memorandum of understanding with theMedical Tourism Association (MTA) to work together on a number of training and certification programmes, its press release stated.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are making sure the UAE becomes a major player in the USD 38.5–55 billion global medical tourism industry. Dubai’s DHCC is leading the charge there, while Abu Dhabi is partnering with Cleveland Clinic to launch one of the world’s first fully-digital hospitals, among other medical tourism initiatives.