Boom in Muslim tourists predicted
From halal spas to prayer rooms at airport terminals, the global tourism industry is gearing up for a projected boom in Muslim travel over the next decade, experts say.
Friday 3 August 2012, 12:51PM
Their growing number and affluence means Muslims – especially from the oil-rich Middle East – are travelling as never before, and this is a trend that looks set to gather pace.
Spending by Muslim tourists is growing faster than the global rate and is forecast to reach US$192 billion (B5.8 trillion) a year by 2020, up from US$126 billion (B3.8 trillion) in 2011, according to a 47-country study by two companies specialising in the market – Singapore-based halal travel specialist Crescentrating, along with DinarStandard, a US-based firm that tracks the Muslim lifestyle market.
Crescentrating chief executive Fazal Bahardeen said Muslim-majority states such as Malaysia, Egypt and Indonesia were already favourite destinations, but non-Islamic countries are now “taking a serious look” at Muslim holidaymakers.
The Economist Intelligence Unit said in a March report that meeting the needs of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims is fuelling business opportunities in numerous sectors.
“From food and Islamic finance, the industry is spreading its wings into pharmaceuticals, fashion and tourism, among many other areas,” it said, noting more than half of the world’s Muslim population is aged 24 or younger, many of them well-educated.
Thailand is hungrily eyeing the Muslim travel boom.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand– which has an office in Dubai – is promoting halal spas for Muslim tourists, who require strict privacy for male and female clients.
It also organised a month-long festival of Thai cuisine in the United Arab Emirates from June 8 to July 7.
Crescentrating’s study ranked Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport as the most Islam-friendly airport in a non-Muslim-majority country.
And it found that tourists from the Gulf – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – are the sector’s biggest spenders.
Gulf countries accounted for 37 per cent of Muslim tourist spending in 2011 even though they represent a mere 3 per cent of the global Muslim population.