LONDON — Having the potential to develop into one of the most resilient forms of tourism, the Middle East tourist destination countries should start tapping into the unexploited halal tourism by providing a wide array of attractions ranging from halal airline to women-only hotels, a leading travel report said on Monday, November 12.“Despite vastly differing requirements, Middle East tourism is missing out by targeting Muslims and non-Muslims in exactly the same way,” said the World Travel Market Global Trend Reports 2007 cited by reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The reports forecast that the number of tourists going to the Middle East will grow by 66 percent between now and 2011, by which time 55 million people should be visiting the region annually, with estimated revenues worth $51 billion.
“Most of this expansion stems from inbound travelers, underlining the need for tailored Halal tourism products and services that are developed within the region to cater to this dynamic market.”
The World Travel Market Global Trend Reports are a series of reports on tourism industry published annually at the World Travel Market exhibition in London.
This year’s reports are produced in cooperation with Euromonitor International, the world’s leading provider of global business intelligence on industries, countries and consumers.
They cover key trends on UK/Ireland, Western and Eastern Europe, Middle East, North and South America, Africa and Asia Pacific.
Travel experts attending the London fair said the tourism industry in the Middle East should come up with halal attractions, citing a pilot experience by the Vatican.
“The Vatican set up its own budget airline to transport pilgrims to holy sites in 2007 and there is potential for the development of a Halal airline,” said Parita Chitakasem, Asia Pacific and Australasia travel and tourism manager.
“Such an airline could provide Halal food, calls for prayer, Qur’ans in seat pockets, religious programs on the in-flight entertainment system and separate sections for male and female passengers,” she said.
“Another potential option is to explore women only hotels to overcome Muslim women being unable to book hotel rooms without a male guarantor, which is the case in Saudi Arabia.”
Fiona Jeffery, chairman of World Travel Market, agreed.
“This represents an important, untapped potential and a business opportunity for Halal tourism which is a form of religious tourism defined as activities permissible under Islamic law,” she said.
The concept of halal — meaning permissible in Arabic — has traditionally been applied to food, but developed to include any Shari`ah-compliant products ranging from bank dealings to cosmetics and vaccines.
Malaysia, a mainly Muslim country, is becoming globally recognized as the world’s halal hub.