Despite vastly differing requirements, Middle East tourism is missing out by targeting Muslims and non-Muslims in exactly the same way, according to the World Travel Market Global Trend Reports 2007.“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”, said Fiona Jeffery, Chairman of World Travel Market.
The report, released on the opening day of the leading industry business-to-business event in London, forecasts the number of inbound tourists to the Middle East will grow by 66%, reaching 55 million visitors by 2011.
“A large proportion of these will be intra-regional, boosted by increased transport connectivity between cities and better infrastructure”, said Jeffery.
Ms Parita Chitakasem, Asia Pacific and Australasia Travel and Tourism Manager said: “As witnessed by the continued number of religious tourists visiting the Iraq, Halal Tourism has the potential to develop into one of the most resilient forms of tourism.
“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 to start up its own airline. Such an airline could provide Halal food, calls for prayer, Korans in seat pockets, religious programmes on the inflight entertainment system and separate sections for male and female passengers.
“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.”
Tourism revenue in the Middle East is expected to grow by 108% to almost $51 billion and domestic tourism by 82% to reach $24 billion in 2011.
Most of this expansion stems from inbound travellers, underlining the need for tailored Halal tourism products and services that are developed within the region to cater to this dynamic market.