Senior associate, Halal Lifestyle Markets, DinarStandard, Reem El Shafaki exclusively comments to Natalie Hami about the growing Muslim travel sector and how businesses can better target them.
“Some major hotels, resorts and destinations are taking note of the growing Muslim travel segment and are tailoring their offerings to meet the unique needs of Muslim travellers; but opportunities still abound to tap into this market.
Muslim spending on travel reached $137 billion in 2012 – which represents 12.5 per cent of the global expenditure on travel – and is expected to reach $181 billion in 2018. The Muslim travel market is larger than the largest travel source market, which is the US. These figures – which exclude spending on Hajj and Umrah – are based on the State of the Islamic Economy Study which was released in November 2013 and was produced by Thomson Reuters in collaboration with DinarStandard, a New York based growth strategy research and advisory firm.
Destinations already targeting this segment include Tourism Australia, which published a Muslim Traveller’s Guide to Australia which in addition to featuring popular tourist sites, lists mosques and Halal restaurants. In Queensland Australia, some of the major theme parks, hotels and malls include prayer spaces for Muslims.
To attract Muslim tourists, Thailand has opened a series of gender-segregated halal spas and the Thai tourism authority produced a commercial entitled ‘Muslim Friendly Thailand,’ advertising Muslim couples, children and whole families enjoying travel attractions.
The Ritz-Carlton properties in key locations throughout the US offer Quran and prayer carpets as well as Arabic-language TV stations and newspapers on in-room iPads, as well as offering halal food.
Examples of Muslim majority countries include family-friendly Turkish beach resorts that are alcohol-free and offer separate swimming pools for women.
Despite these examples, there is still a huge gap in the market in the form of unmet needs. Muslim majority countries already have most of the prerequisites for a Muslim friendly holiday, such as halal food and a family friendly environment, but need to market their offerings to the Muslim travel segment as such.
Popular international destinations can take small measures that will go a long way in terms of making Muslims feel welcome. A basic understanding of the Muslim culture by hotel staff and the ability to point out the closest mosque or halal restaurant will go a long way, in addition to considerations such as meal timings during Ramadan.
Travel players who are keen to attract the Muslim traveller segment will be well served to tailor some of their offerings to Muslims and reach out to them through targeted channels.”