Muslim-friendly tourism grows faster than global market

Market worth 126 bn Usd a year, but Italy lags

27 November, 11:41

    Muslim tourists in Istanbul © Leonardo Patrizi iStock. IN VIAGGIO Muslim tourists in Istanbul © Leonardo Patrizi iStock. IN VIAGGIO

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, NOVEMBER 26 - They are young, cultured, technological and rich. They travel 12 months a year, and Italy is one of the countries at the top of their wishlist because, if the Coliseum and luxury shopping were not enough, Rome also has the largest mosque in Europe. But they complain about the lack of services and packages dedicated to them, in particular the possibility to eat according to Halal rules (Arabic word that means "licit"), and for this reason they snub Italy in favor of other European countries (France, Germany, Spain, and even Scandinavian countries). The characteristics of the typical Muslim tourist were outlined by the project Italia Bayti (Italy my home) organized to sensitize the Italian hospitality industry to hosting Middle Eastern clients and, more generally, those coming from one of 57 countries of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The industry segment is substantial considering that for the last 10 years Muslim-friendly tourism has been growing by 5% per year, compared to 3.8% growth for international tourism in general. In 2013, Muslim-friendly tourism was worth 126 billion dollars, or 12.3% of total spending on global tourism. In addition, Muslim tourists have enormous spending capacity. One need only to consider that the Saudi tourist spends the most per capita in absolute terms, from 10,000 to 100,000 euros per year in travel and vacation.

    The largest part of the requests come from Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Kuwait, but there is also a large segment of the market for those Muslims who live in non-Islamic environments, such as France and Germany. Top destinations are Malaysia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, followed by Singapore, Russia, China, France, Thailand and even Italy, which, however, has much untapped potential. "A month ago in Granada, there was the first European congress on Halal tourism," explained Anna Maria Aisha Tiozzo, vice president of Confassociazioni and president of World Halal Development (WHAD). "There are very strict criteria that require dedicated structures for Muslim tourists," she added, such as no alcohol, Halal cooking, pools and other separate places for men and women, places of prayer, no music or television. "Here in Italy it would be 'mission impossible'. We are not ready and perhaps not even suited, and the tourists don't even ask for it. What they complain about is, instead, a series of services that are essential for them and an attitude that is Muslim-friendly, on which we can and must do much more. For this reason, with WHAD, we have instituted a training and certification program directed toward the whole tourism world that is aimed at a rating by international bodies and that we will present also at the BIT (international tourism fair in Milan)".

    A survey found that for 67% of Muslim travelers, Halal food is an indispensable requirement, followed by a fair price (53%) and a Muslim friendly attitude (49%) also towards families.

    Muslim travelers appreciate places that are suitable for their prayers, as well as staff and guides who speak Arabic or at least English. In Italy, they look for mountain and lake locations - as lakes are novel for them - as well as elite sports like horseback riding and golf. They also seek out luxury and Made in Italy shopping, the medical sector, beauty and spas.

    They would also be open to sampling Italian cuisine, as long as it is Halal. "In Italy, there are 56 million soccer commissioners and 56 million tourism experts, but there have been no steps made to improve this sector," said Giuseppe Sarnella, "We can no longer be content with traditional tourism". (ANSAmed).

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