Muslim-friendly tourism grows at double general tourism rate

Set to expand from $140 bn to $238 bn by 2019

04 June, 19:36

    Symbol of Halal products Symbol of Halal products

    (by Virginia Di Marco) - ROME - The jargon for it is "halal tourism". It is, in other words, tourism generated by observant Muslims: a slice of the market that in recent years has been significantly widening.

    At a growth rate of 6% per year, 'halal tourism' is expanding at roughly double the rate of the tourism industry as a whole, according to the Tourism and Culture Board of Abu Dhabi. Also interesting are numbers contained in the 2014-2015 report on the state of the global Islamic economy, gathered by the Thomson Reuters research center.

    In 2013, the halal tourism market was worth a total of $140 billion, researchers found - a figure even more remarkable considering that does not take account business resulting from the two annual pilgrimages to Mecca, the Haji and the Umrah, which alone are worth another $16 billion.

    Industry forecasts for the short and medium term are positive. Analysts estimate that by 2019 halal tourism will be worth over $238 billion dollars.

    But where do observant Muslims who travel like to spend their holidays? Many of them in Malaysia - the Southeast Asian country takes the prize as the preferred destination according to the latest Global Muslim Travel Index. The study was carried out by CrescentRating, a group devoted to developing halal friendly tourism that bills itself as the "world's leading authority" on the matter, in partnership with Mastercard.

    "In recent years, we saw huge growth in halal food and Islamic finance. Now this trend has gone beyond the food and the banks, and includes lifestyle and entertainment....observant Muslim consumers are increasingly moving for tourism, business, medical care, etc," CrescentRating wrote.

    Thus travel to Malaysia - where 60% of the population is Muslim - is not always or only for pleasure. The country is gearing up to become the number one destination in the world in medical tourism for Muslims. At Malaysian clinics and hospitals, 'halal' ladies are already treated by women doctors; and places are set up for prayer with Korans made available.

    Even Turkey - the first to launch a Muslim-friendly resort - has garnered the favor of practicing Muslim tourists. "The first halal-friendly, seaside holiday village opened its doors in Turkey twenty years ago," said the United Arab Emirates Web site arabianbusiness.com, citing the tourism booking site Halalbooking.com, as its source.

    "It was a success. Today, there are between 50 and 70 halal establishments and resorts along the coast; four opened just this year in the Antalya-Alanya, in the south of the country, to meet massive demand, both domestic and from abroad," the UAE site wrote.

    At resorts serving halal food, alcohol consumption is forbidden; men and women have separate pools and beaches; and codes of conduct and clothing are consistent with Islamic precepts. Hotels of this kind are also present in the UAE, Indonesia and, in general, in the Middle East and North Africa. International hotel chains have picked up on the scent. In several countries - particularly in Asia, in places like Japan, Singapore and Taiwan - hotel chains are gearing up to meet the growing halal demand and reap its profit. 

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