NEW YORK (TheStreet) — With its opulent hotels, fabulous golf courses and the world's largest shopping mall, Dubai established itself long ago as a first-class playground for the wealthy.
More recently, Dubai has been making a name for itself in another arena — luxury medical tourism. With the 4 million-square-foot Dubai Healthcare City, a place fabulous enough to make sheiks and celebrities feel at home, Dubai has been luring patients from all over the world who want to combine a nose job or tummy tuck with a glamorous vacation.
The shimmering Middle Eastern city is merely one example of the growing market for cosmetic surgery tourism.
Developing countries have been attracting more and more international patients by building cutting-edge facilities and often offering procedures at a fraction of the U.S. cost, says the report Impact of Medical Tourism on Cosmetic Surgery in the United States, which appeared in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery — Global Open.
The rise of the Internet has also helped popularize such tourism, making it easier to find information about foreign hospitals and doctors, the report says.
While the exact number of American cosmetic surgery tourists is hard to pinpoint, given that there's little official information available and the definition of cosmetic surgery tourism varies widely, the journal estimates that in 2013 more than 8 million U.S. citizens traveled abroad for some form of health care. That's a jump from just 750,000 in 2007.
The Center for Disease Control describes medical tourism as a worldwide, multibillion-dollar phenomenon that is expected to grow substantially in the next five to 10 years.