By Claire Valdini
Global revenue from Muslim tourists expected to rise 4.8 percent annually from US$126bn last year
The global tourism industry is gearing up for a projected boom in Muslim travellers over the next few years with Islamic-friendly spas on Australia’s Gold Coast, halal restaurants in India and prayer rooms at airport terminals on the rise, a new report has said.
Global revenue from Muslim tourists is expected to rise 4.8 percent annually over the next eight years from an estimated US$126bn in 2011, according to research by Muslim-specialists Crescentrating and DinarStandard.
“Muslim tourists may very well be the largest un-tapped niche market of the tourism industry,” Rafi-uddin Shikoh, managing director of DinarStandard, said in a statement.
“Airlines, destinations and hotels/resorts can benefit tremendously by catering to the unique Muslim lifestyle travel drivers of halal food, family friendly environments, religious practices accommodation, gender relation nuances, and other areas,” he added.
Demand for Muslim-friendly services is soaring amid rapidly rising populations and strong oil prices, particularly in the Middle East. Some 18 percent of the world’s 1.6bn Muslims live in the Arab world while those in the Middle East have around US$4 trillion worth of capital, according to Hedge Fund Research.
The study, which compared Muslims' experiences in 47 countries but did not include religious travel during Hajj and Umrah, found that tourists from the Middle East and North Africa account for around 60 percent of total global Muslim outbound expenditure with Saudi Arabia comprising the largest number of tourists, followed by Iran, UAE, Indonesia and Kuwait.
Malaysia continues to attract the largest number of Muslim visitors, even during Ramadan, while Turkey and the UAE followed in second and third place, respectively.
Muslim tourists cited the availability of halal food, family friendly environments and gender relation nuances as some of the most importance aspects when choosing where to go on holiday. Nearly 70 percent of those polled listed halal food as their top priority followed by overall price (53 percent) and Muslim-friendly experience (49 percent).
Despite the growing demand, very few in the tourism industry are catering to Muslim needs. “While this is a large travel segment - very few hotels, airlines and tourism destinations moved to meet demand. This gives industry players a unique opportunity to lead in adding this segment to their multicultural marketing mix,” noted the report.
The report cited Dubai-based Emirates Airline, Malaysia and Thai Airways as three of the most successful airlines at catering to Muslim needs. Malaysia’s De palma Group and UAE-based Al-Jawhara were listed amongst best practice hotels and resorts while airports in Munich, Thailand and Turkey were singled for their successful implementation of Muslim-friendly environments.