Health tourism has increasingly become very popular in the modern society where the middle class is racing against time. Freeman (112) defines health tourism as a travel to a specific tourist destination with a major aim of receiving medical treatment. It involves addressing two very important needs without having to travel to different destinations. According to Christensen and Dillon (20), although the term health tourism is a relatively new term, the practice has been in existence for centuries, especially among the wealthy families across Europe, Americas, and Asia. However, many governments have not always considered that this could be an industry that should be viewed as different from others. Things are now changing as the economists have come to recognize the difference in those who travel purposefully to tour the world and those who tour the world, but with the main intention of getting medical assistance.
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According to a research by Fred and Forest (61), France was once one of the most preferred destinations for tourists who were seeking for medical assistance. However, this trend is slowly changing due to the emergence of cheaper and more effective medical services in South East Asia. Singapore and Dubai are some of the tourist destinations that are becoming popular for people who are seeking medical health. According to Miller (44), Singapore is known for its effective and affordable cancer treatment. It has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, with hospitals which are effectively equipped and properly staffed. Dubai is known for its infrastructural developments and a healthcare system that is heavily funded by the state. Other than the beautiful sceneries in the city, tourists can also get superior healthcare products offered at the public and private hospitals. In this paper, the researcher will analyze health tourism in Dubai and that offered in Singapore.
Singapore and Dubai are some of the Asian countries that have emerged as the preferred destination for tourists who are seeking medical help. In this section, the researcher will compare the performance of this sector in these two countries. Analyzing health tourism in Dubai and that in Singapore may require effective tools of analysis that can facilitate the comparison.
Five Forces Model of Competition
Porter’s Five Forces Model is one of the most commonly used tools when analyzing a company or any industry. This tool will help in the analysis of health tourism in the two countries. The biggest threats that an industry can face is the threat of new entrants. Many countries in Asia, Europe, Americas, and even Africa are trying to modernize their healthcare systems to attract tourists who are seeking medical services. This threat may affect both countries in equal measure because their neighbors also have efficient healthcare services.
The threat of substitutes is real in this industry. According to Jeffs (126), when a tourists travels to a country for medical treatment, he will benefit health, hospitality and related industry. However, a tourist may opt to get medical services in different country. If that happens, then health industry may not benefit from such travelers. Singapore and Dubai have succeeded in fighting this threat by equipping their medical facilities. Comparing the two countries, it is apparent that Singapore is doing better than Dubai. Although the government of Dubai has succeeded in constructing state-of-the-art medical facilities which are equipped with some of the best medical equipments, it is yet to staff these hospitals to the standards that can put it at par with countries such as Singapore.
Singh (33) notes that Singapore has been keen on retaining its medical staff by offering them good remuneration and effective workplace environment. The country has been attracting talents from all over the world, especially from East Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa. This is one of the main reasons why the healthcare sector in the country has improved to become one of the best in the world. Bargaining power of buyers may sometimes affect the competitiveness of an industry. It is important to note that most of the people who travel to a given country to seek medication do so as individuals other than organizational. This lowers their bargaining power as buyers. The low bargaining power of the buyers benefits the industry in both countries in equal measure.
The bargaining power of the suppliers is another problem that both countries have had to deal with as they try to equip their medical facilities. Most of the medical equipments used in the two countries are imported from West Europe, the United, and China. Some of the medicines are also imported from other countries. It is important to note that these countries are also making efforts to ensure that they are self-sufficient. However, a critical analysis of the two countries shows that Singapore is doing better than Dubai. Singapore has made more advancement in technological developments. It is importing less medical equipments compared to Dubai. In fact, some of the equipments made in Singapore are imported to the developing countries. Medical research in Singapore is also better in Singapore than in Dubai. These factors have made bargaining power of suppliers stronger in Dubai than it is in Singapore.
The degree is rivalry is another competitive force that defines the position of a firm or an industry in the market. The two countries have to deal with the market rivalry offered by their neighboring countries. When the two countries are compared, then Dubai is best placed than Singapore in dealing with market rivalry. According to Saloner, Shepard, and Podolny (82), Dubai is the preferred destination for tourists seeking medical services in the Middle East. However, Malaysia is ahead of Singapore in Southeast Asia. Singapore also faces stiff competition from Thailand whose medical services are considered to be of very high standard.
Competitive Profile Matrix
From the analysis tool used in the section above, it is clear that the performance of health tourism industry in Singapore is slightly better than that of Dubai. However, it is necessary to use more than one tool to determine the actual position of the industry in these two countries. In this section, the researcher will use Competitive Profile Matrix (CPM). This matrix will introduce the use of statistics by assigning values to various components of competitiveness in the two industries. The statistical values of the two countries can then be compared to determine which of the two countries register a better performance. The table below is the matrix with values assigned to various critical success factors based on the information gathered from books, journal articles, and reliable online sources.
Table 1: Competitive Profile Matrix
|Critical Success Factor||Weight||Rating||Score||Rating||Score|
The first factor to be analyzed was the quality of product offered in the two countries. It was assigned the highest weight because when it comes to health, people will be keen on going for the best product in the market. Singapore had a higher score because of its highly qualified medical staffs, fully equipped hospitals, and the supportive nature of the society. Customer loyalty was also assigned a very high weight because once an individual is convinced that a given facility offers the best services, it may not be easy to convince him otherwise. Dubai performed better than Singapore in having a pool of loyal tourists who want to see the beautiful sceneries the city has to offer. Other critical success factors were assigned the same value, but this does not mean they are less important.
In advertising, Dubai’s performance was better than that of Singapore. According to Bierling (31), the government of Dubai has invested a lot in advertisement. Inasmuch as the individual hospitals- both public and private- in Dubai have to spend in advertising, the government has been keen on promoting tourism in the country. Social media marketing is one of the main platforms that the Dubai government is using. In Singapore, individual firms are forced to advertise themselves without heavy government support. In terms of price competitiveness, Singapore’s performance was better than that of Dubai. It is cheaper to seek medical help in Singapore than it is in Dubai.
In terms of management, Singapore registered a better performance compared to that in Dubai. This does not mean that health tourism in Dubai is poorly managed. In fact, a report by Singh (94) shows that Dubai is one of the few countries in the world that are now having a clearly defined health tourism industry. However, the focus was to determine the efficiency of hospitals, how they are coordinated, and the manner in which international tourists are treated when they visit these hospitals. Singapore’s performance in terms of financial position of the industry was lower compared to that of Dubai. According to Freeman (72), the government of Dubai has always been keen to support its tourism sector. All government hospitals receive heavy subsidies from the government. Taxes levied on private hospitals in the country are also lower considered to that in the regional market. It means that healthcare and tourism sectors are not under heavy financial burden. These financial benefits make it possible for the players to improve the infrastructure that supports their industry.
When it comes to global market expansion, both countries have registered poor performance for obvious reasons. Many countries are still struggling to find ways of expanding globally when it comes to issue of health tourism. This is so because the essence is to bring tourists to the country so that they can use other services offered in the country other than healthcare products. In terms of global market share, Singapore had a better performance than Dubai. People travelling from all over the world to Singapore for medical reasons are higher than those who are travelling to Dubai. The total overall ratings show that Singapore is performing better than Dubai in Health Tourism. It means that this model’s findings confirm the findings obtained from Porter’s Five Forces Model.
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Dubai and Singapore are very popular names when it comes to health tourism. In fact, Christensen and Dillon (12) say that the city of Dubai is currently one of the most preferred destinations among tourists from North America and Europe. It is, therefore, important to determine if it true that health tourism is performing better in Singapore than it is in Dubai. In this section, the researcher will use SWOT analysis to determine strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats in this industry in the two countries. The table below shows that analysis.
Table 2: SWOT Matrix
According to the analysis done above, it is clear that these two countries have internal and external environmental factors some of which favor them and those that work against them. In Dubai, major external issues is the growing insecurity in the region due to the insurgency of ISIS and other terrorists’ groups targeting specific group of people, including non-Muslim tourists. In Singapore, the biggest issue is the threat posed by neighboring countries such as Malaysia as the preferred destination for tourists seeking medical help. It is easier for Singapore to deal with this major challenge than Dubai can resolve the external issue affecting it. The players in health tourism industry in Singapore can improve quality of the services delivered and lower its prices to outsmart that of the regional competitors. This can be done by lowering the cost of production.
It is important to note that Dubai is in no position to address the issue of insecurity that is affecting the entire region. Inasmuch as the entire country is very peaceful and with stable government, regional governments are very unstable and pose serious threats to this country. The government of Dubai alone cannot intercede to solve the problem. This puts it at a very awkward position when it comes to competing with countries such as Singapore for tourists. Although the government is giving the industry massive support, most of the tourists give security a priority over every other thing when travelling. They always avoid regions considered volatile. It means that based on this model of analysis, Dubai is still lagging behind Singapore as a better destination for tourists seeking medical services.
At this stage, one may conclude that Singapore is a better destination for international travelers in need of therapeutic services. However, it will be necessary to continue with the comparison using other available tools of analysis. In this section, the researcher will use Strategic Position and Action Evaluation Matrix, popularly known as SPACE Matrix to continue comparing health tourism in the two countries.
Table 3: Strategic Position and Action Evaluation (SPACE) Matrix
|Internal Strategic Position||External Strategic Position|
|Financial strength |
|Industry strength |
|Competitive advantage |
|Environmental stability |
According to the SPACE Matrix analysis done on health tourism in the two industries, a number of important facts that may help in this comparison have been revealed. However, this analysis shows that the internal environmental factors in Singapore are not very different from that in Dubai. The major difference is that in Dubai, government is highly involved in financing and regulating this industry than is the case in Singapore. Major differences come in the external environment. In Dubai, the issue of regional insecurity, which is out of control of the government, is still brought out clearly in this analysis. This comes out as the major weakness for health tourism in Dubai. Singapore enjoys a peaceful region where acts of terrorism and political anarchy are not common. In terms of competition, Dubai is at a greater advantage than Singapore. It is the best destination for tourists seeking medical services in the region. On the other hand, Singapore is lagging behind neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Thailand. One can, therefore, deduce that the two countries tie based on this tool.
Health Tourism in Dubai and that in Singapore has been analyzed using various tools and so far, it is evident that Singapore is performing better than Dubai. At this stage, the researcher will use the Boston Consulting Group Matrix to analyze the position of individual products offered in the two countries based on their market growth and market share. This tool may be very important in defining strategies that the two countries can use to address the current problems and how to maximize on the opportunities available in the market. In this section, it is important to note that the researcher will be comprehensive in analyzing all the tourism-related products and healthcare-related products in each of the two regions. The assumption in this case is that when one travels to a country for medical reasons, he will need tourism-related products such as hotel services, food, and maybe a journey to the national parks and game reserves as parts of the package.
Table 4: Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Model
|Question Marks |
|Cash cows |
The above matrix clearly shows a pattern that explains some of the facts demonstrated in the tools of analysis used in the sections above. For instance, most of the products classified as stars in Singapore are either in the category of question marks or cash cows in Dubai, and vice versa hold. Tourists who are not suffering from serious medical problems and are in need of relaxation related products go to Dubai. Most of these products, such as spa and wellness services, stress management, and minor medical surgeries are becoming very popular in this city. This is a clear demonstration that the major aim of these tourists when they travel to this country is to tour. Receiving medication is only part of the services they want to get from the city. This indicates that if a person is looking for serious medical solution that has little to do with touring the city, then chances are high they may not choose Dubai.
Singapore on the other hand, is receiving visitors who need specialized medical services. The products under the star category are very specialized and critical in determining survival or a person. They include cancer treatment, cosmetic surgery, dentistry services, organ transplant, cardiac surgeries, and orthopedic surgeries. It means that anyone who is keen on getting medical solutions will more likely visit Singapore because of its specialized medical services. Comparing the two countries in this important category, Singapore has outsmarted Dubai by a wide margin. Most of the services offered in Dubai are available in almost all the countries around the world. The only unique products this city offers are the specialized tourism-related services.
In the other two quadrants (cash cows and question marks), it is also easy to identify the superiority of Singapore over Dubai as an appropriate destination for tourists seeking for medical services. Dubai is still popular in wellness services while Singapore is superior in specialized medical services. In the final quadrant (dogs), the two countries share in the products found there. As Miller (48) says, it is rare for one to travel abroad for maternal services unless they have serious complications that cannot be addressed in their home countries. HIV/AIDs management is also becoming one of the medical problems that many prefer to address locally due to the invention in this field that has made medicine cheaply available in many countries all over the world. It is important to note that the products classified in this fourth category are very popular among the locals in both countries. However, the researcher assumed that these people do not fall in the category of tourists.
Grand Strategy Matrix
The researcher will use one final tool to compare the performance of health tourism in Dubai and that in Singapore. The Grand Strategy Matrix may help to classify the entire industry or individual companies within the industry. It may be interesting to see how individual firms in the industry in these two countries are performing. However, this is not within the purview of our study. The analysis will be done on the entire country other than focusing on individual firms within the industries. The matrix below will help in classification.
Source (Fred and Forest 112)
Dubai falls in the second quadrant. The rapid infrastructural development supported by massive government expenditure has resulted into massive market growth as the global community becomes aware of the city as a major tourist destination. Product and market development has been impressive and so has the vertical and horizontal integration. However, it is in a weak competitive position when compared against Singapore. It is a fact that when Dubai’s health tourism industry is compared against that within the region, then it will be in a strong competitive position putting in the first quadrant. However, the analysis was done on a global perspective in order to compare the two countries effectively.
Singapore on the other hand, falls in the first quadrant of this matrix. Market penetration, product and market development are very impressive in Singapore. The country has been trying to diversify its products to attract more tourists into the country. The country’s health tourism sector has experienced rapid market growth over the past one decade. It also has a strong competitive position from a global perspective. As noted in the section above, Singapore is facing stiff competition from Thailand and Malaysia in this industry. In fact, recent studies show that these two countries are performing better than Singapore in this industry. It means that if this industry were to be classified regionally, then Singapore’s health tourism industry would have fallen in the second quadrant. However, the global nature of this analysis elevates it to the first quadrant.
Conclusion and Recommendations
At this stage, it is apparent that health tourism in Singapore is superior to that in Dubai. One of the possible reasons is the stiff competition experienced in the South East Asia. Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand have been competing to attract international tourists who are seeking medical services. This has forced them to modernize their healthcare systems to the best international standards. On the other hand, Dubai has faced mild competition from regional countries in this industry. This country is enjoying peace in a region known to be very volatile. This means that its little effort to improve this sector has a massive impact.
That is why Singapore’s medical services are superior to that of Dubai. Dubai enjoys the fact that it is a tourist magnate. People from all over the world want to travel to Dubai to see the world’s tallest building among other beautiful sceneries. This gives it an advantage over Singapore. However, the regional insecurity, especially the activities of ISIS and other terrorist groups in the country, has affected the Dubai market negatively. There is a room for improvement in both countries to help promote health tourism. The following recommendations will be very important if the two countries can put them into consideration.
- Dubai government should invest more in research to reduce its overreliance on imported drugs and equipment.
- Dubai should stop benchmarking its medical services against that offered in the region. Instead, it should compare its services to those offered in South East Asia and Europe.
- Singapore should invest more in promotional campaigns to convince tourists that the country has more to offer than just medical services.
- Singapore should improve quality of their services and lower their product prices as a way of outsmarting regional rivals.
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