Spain increasing halal options to attract Muslim tourists

Growing number of visitors from the Gulf region

10 July, 16:53

    Spain focuses on offering halal services Spain focuses on offering halal services

    (ANSAmed) - MADRID - Benefiting from the crises in southern and eastern Mediterranean countries currently going through a transition, Spanish tourism facilities are focusing on offering halal services to attract ever more travelers from Islamic countries. The Industry, Energy and Tourism Ministry announced programmes at Dubai's Arabian Travel Market in May to increase promotional activities for what the country has to offer in cultural, nature-based, business and congress tourism to wealthy Gulf states, where most of new visitors are from. An example of the purchasing power of tourists from these markets is seen in the Hoteles.com hotel price index, a reservations web page which shows that Middle Eastern visitors spent the most in Spain in 2012: an average of 145 euros per person per room, per night, equal to a 31% increase on 2011. The amount spent was even more than that by Japanese tourists (121 euros on average per room) and Australians (119 euros). The growth strategy for Islamic markets is reliant on an increase in flights from Dubai and Qatar to Madrid and Barcelona.

    ''There have been two flights per day with Emirates to Madrid and direct daily flights to Barcelona since 2012, with an occupancy rate of 75% of the seats available,'' said the tourism promotion coordinator for Spain in the Gulf region, Carlos Hernandez, in statements to the media. The Iberian peninsula is being seen ever more as an attractive holiday destination especially for upper and upper-middle class families, he said. Many couples opt for Spain for their honeymoons, as well, and stay for lengthy periods of at least a month. The choice is usually one of the traditional destinations for 'sol y playa', such as the Costa del Sol e Andalucia, as well as Barcelona and Madrid. In order to foster the trend, the Spanish government has sped up procedures for the issuing of Schengen visas. One of the decisive factors for tourists from the Gulf region and the Middle East is the possibility to combine a number of different destinations in a single trip, with travel to Morocco and Portugal as well as Spain, for example. ''There are a number of reasons for this,'' Hernandez said, who is also the director of the Spanish bureau of tourism in Rome (OET), ''such as city tours, with a chance to see both tradition and modernity, as well as culture, art, cuisine, shopping, sport, nature and - of course - the Arab legacy in the Iberian peninsula.'' In order to meet the needs of the new visitors, the sector offers halal services (in compliance with Islamic precepts) and ones adapted to the specific needs of Arab travelers. In hotels, for example, ''it is important to offer large rooms with communicating doors between them, since wealthy families often travel with their children and servants: an average of seven people,'' Hernandez said. ''Details like a small 'Islamic chapel' or an indication of the direction of Mecca in hotel rooms can make a big difference.'' As concerns cuisine, halal menus are important, or at least ''recommendations of dishes that combine fish, vegetables and fruit translated into Arabic,'' he added. Estimates say that over the next few years 14% of international trips will be taken by Muslim tourists, according to a report presented by Dinar Standard in Berlin. Based on a survey of a thousand regular travelers from Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and America, the report underscores that the main requirement indicated by respondents was a halal menu (67%). The reports recommends that tour agencies interested in getting a share of the Muslim tourist market offer prayer rooms and other special services during Ramadan, such as meals before sunrise. The hotels that are 100% halal do not offer alcoholic drinks and have certified menus, separate lodgings for women and prayer rooms. According to the estimates reported by the Dinar Standard Institute, Muslim tourists spend about 98 billion euros on trips every year, and the outlook shows that this figure is expected to rise to 149 billion in 2020, a 52% increase.(ANSAmed).

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