ATM 2019: Enticing younger Muslim travellers by diversifying and digitising

ATM 2019

According to experts speaking at the recently concluded Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2019, Gulf hospitality operators wishing to boost their share of the growing halal tourism market should diversify and digitise their offerings to suit younger generations of Muslim travellers.

With the GDP impact of Muslim travel in the Middle East on course to hit $36 billion by 2020 – up from $30.5 billion in 2017, according to Salam Standard – halal tourism represents a lucrative prospect for GCC hospitality brands. The segment is expected to create 1.2 million regional direct and indirect jobs by next year.

Representatives from Wego, DinarStandard, Shaza Hotels, Tripfez, Serendipity Tailormade, Mosafer C by Ummah Collaboration, holidayme, Orange County Visitors Association, Cape Town Tourism and Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) explored ways to tap into the growing segment of Gen Z and millennial travellers at the Global Halal Tourism Summit 2019, which took place on ATM’s Global Stage.

IBTM China 2019

Managing director – MENA and India, Wego, Mamoun Hmedan said: “There are new destinations popping up out of nowhere. Developers are building properties from scratch, with halal-friendly offerings that are designed to appeal to younger generations of Muslim travellers.

“Wego does a lot of work on social media and collaborates with tourism boards to educate people about the opportunities available to them when they travel. We make sure we always have options for our customers to look for properties near to mosques or attractions that may be of interest to Muslim travellers.”

Approximately 41 per cent of Muslim travellers’ global outbound spending comes from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, according to figures released by Salam Standard. The Middle East’s total outbound spend is projected to grow to $72 billion by 2020.

In addition to emerging trends such as eco, ethical, all-female, experiential, gastro and adventure tourism, panellists also discussed digitisation and success stories from ‘non-Muslim’ destinations such as Orange County, Cape Town and Japan.

Vice president, Shaza Hotels, Chrid Nader said: “Gen Z and millennial travellers are setting the trends in halal tourism. The biggest challenge for us involves the resort side of the market – providing the privacy and facilities that Muslim guests need while delivering the entertainment they are looking for. It can be a challenge to create that mix.

“Whenever we create a resort, we have to develop something that is culturally relevant to the location. Travellers are no longer looking for ‘just a hotel’; they want to know what we can offer in terms of experiences. So, Muslim travellers don’t necessarily need to see halal branding but they do need to know that halal services are available.”

Industry-wide investment in halal tourism-related travel technology currently stands at approximately $40 million, according to research conducted by DinarStandard. Panellists agreed that this figure is likely to grow further in the future, as younger Muslim travellers continue to drive innovation in online services.

CEO, Tripfez, Faeez Fadhlillah said: “If you look at the distribution of millennials globally, many of them are living in Muslim-majority countries. In the next 10 years, the youth in this region are going to play a significant role in driving tourism trends. That’s why online travel agencies are so interested in meeting demand from Muslim travellers. Companies are doing everything they can to capture this market.”