The Role of service Quality in Developing the Medical Tourism Sector in an Arabic Context: the Qatari Perspective
Medical tourism is a growing niche market within the global tourism sector which has expanded significantly over the last two decades. Since the early 2000's, the Qatari Government has been proactively trying to move away from its economic dependence on oil and the finite hydrocarbon industries and to develop more sustainable industries. At the same time the culture of the country has meant that the government has always sought to provide world class healthcare for its people free at the point of use. Consolidating these aims in the Qatar National Vision 2030, the Qatari Government now seeks to develop a medical tourism industry, which would continue to provide world-class health care for its people, provide high status employment, and expand its sustainable economic base. The aim of this study was to develop an in-depth understanding of the complexity of medical tourism per se and in particular the complexity of medical tourism as a distinct niche market within the Qatari context.S ERVQUAL theory was used as a tool to help develop this deep understanding of medical tourism within the Arabic context.In this study, a framework is developed to identify the critical service quality factors in that context using Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) as a vehicle in Qatar. A three-phase exploratory sequential mixed methods research design guided by a pragmatic research paradigm with HMC as the vehicle was implemented. Qualitative data was collected through semi-structured interviews with 6 Qatari government officials and 20 senior managers of HMC for the first two phases. For the third a questionnaire involving 350 users of HMC services was distributed to collect quantitative data.Thematic analysis was employed to analyse the interview data while the questionnaire data was analysed using SPSS. The data from all three studies was then triangulated to validate the results and identify key themes.The key findings identified an essential need to revise current Qatari legislation in order to allow hospitals and other medical facilities to participate in the commercial delivery of medical tourism and to relax visa restrictions to allow for easier access to Qatar. They also revealed confusion with regard concept of medical tourism, identifying a much larger continuum of types than previously understood, and conflict between participants with regard to potential fears relating to the development of medical tourism. Finally, it was found that only 4 of the 5 service gaps usually identified in SERVQUAL models were applicable in the Qatari context from a theoretical perspective.