Gone are the days when we associate the term ‘Halal’ with food. Halal, meaning lawful or permitted under Islamic Law, today applies to all facets of life – starting from makeup to banking to tourism. The concept of halal tourism, which caters to nearly 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, is the fastest growing sector and excluding Hajj and Umrah, is set to surpass $230 Billion+ by 2020.
According to the Islamic Bank of Asia, Muslim tourists’ expenditure growth rate is expected to be at 4.79% per year through 2012–2020 vs the global rate of 3.8%. There are an estimated 45 million unique trips to the top 50 Muslim destinations annually excluding core religious travel and the Hajj/Umrah travel on its own is expected to be US$14 billion market by 2020.
Predictably Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates led the sector. However, given the size of the market it’s no wonder, countries like Singapore, Russia, China, France, Thailand and Italy have taken the early move to attract this vast population. In this article, we look into the key factors to target this segment.
Growing popularity of Halal Tourism
According to Wikipedia, Halal is any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in under Islamic Sharia. The term covers and designates not only food and drink but also all matters of daily life.
For a religious Muslim tourist, travel preferences include observance of their religious obligations such as daily prayers, modesty in clothing, cross-gender interactions and Halal food. Most halal tourists prefer to travel with family members, stay for a longer period and ultimately spend more money than any other niche. To meet the needs of this high-spending segment, global brands are adapting their services to include announcement of prayer times, gender segregated swimming pools and spa facilities, private holiday villas with high walls and religious programs in destinations frequented by Muslim travellers.
Muslim Travel on rise
The global Muslim population today stands at 1.8 billion currently, with 70% of global population growth over the next 30 years expected to take place in Muslim countries. Last year, Muslims spent an estimated US$126.1 billion on international travel, making up 12.3 percent of all international travel, according to a report on Muslim travel released jointly by consultancy DinarStandard and ratings agency Crescent Rating. By the end of 2020 Muslim international tourism will increase at a faster rate than the average rate for international tourism — 4.79 percent versus 3.8 percent. If we take into account, the Islamic banking assets which currently stand at around US$2 trillion, it’s not surprising to see the recent attention to Halal tourism by the global travel brands.
Emergence of new market
Malaysia has been the pioneer to identify the opportunity in Halal Holidays, attracting over 6 million Muslim visitors last year. Malaysian Airlines, the national carrier was the first to introduce halal in-flight catering on board. However, Turkey, with its closer proximity to gulf countries has overtaken Malaysia to have emerged as the top destination for Halal holidays. According to the Muslim Travel Index Europe, released by Halal Tourism Conference, for Muslim holidaymakers, France is the most popular destination in the continent, with England and Italy tied close behind. Hotels are offering Arabic-speaking staff, Arabic television channels and rooms facing the direction of Mecca, along with prayer mats and halal food options.
Channels specializing Halal tourism
Cashing on the trend, in recent years online travel agencies specializing on Halal travel haven been steadily increasing in numbers. HalalBooking.com, one of our channel partners, provides full holiday services in accordance with Islamic beliefs and practices. The website is available in 6 languages, has advanced hotel search and book functionalities, provides ‘Total Precise Family Pricing” and “Room Suitability” guarantees, and receives bookings from over 70 countries worldwide.
Other sites like Muslim Tripper, Islamic Travel, Halal Trip and Sun Sea & Halal are also catering to this segment. As travel industry takes note of this opportunity, it would be interesting how hotel operators adapt to claim their share of the pie.