Muslim tourists on the rise

2013-05-30 00:00

DURBAN businesses are being urged to look to the Middle East for the next money-spinner in the travel industry — “halaal tourism”.

Hospitality operators heard yesterday at a conference on the beachfront how Muslim travellers presented enormous opportunities.

“We are being alerted to the fact that unless we create a Muslim-friendly city we’ll be missing out on a very important segment of the international tourism market,” said Andrew Layman, CEO of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, hosts of the conference.

The numbers are heady — global spend by Muslims on travel will amount to $200 billion (R1,9 trillion) by 2020. Right now, it’s in the region of $126 billion (R1,2 trillion).

Presenting the figures to delegates was Fazal Bahardeen, CEO of Singapore-based Crescentrating, the leading authority on halaal tourism.

“KZN only needs to target a small portion of that to get something out of it,” he said.

Bahardeen consults with countries that are keenly eyeing the sector and said nations like China, in particular Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and Australia, have already gained traction in the segment.

Last year, Queensland reported up to 38% growth year on year in visitor numbers from the Middle East after an aggressive marketing campaign by the Australian state.

Bahardeen said that on average each halaal tourist spent $7 000 in Queensland, triple the global average.

Global trends show that travel spend by traditional markets in Europe and U.S. is declining, not only because of economics, but because populations there are ageing.

The opposite is true for Muslims, with 50% aged 25 and younger, said Bahardeen.

He said two absolutes were required for operators targeting Muslim visitors — food must be strictly halaal (the word means permissible, thus conforming to Islamic requirements) and venues must have prayer facilities.

A thrilled Moulana Navlakhi, theological director of the South African National Halaal Authority, said the focus on luring Muslim tourists to local shores was long overdue. The authority certifies halaal food.

“We’re grappling with getting this idea into the industry,” he said.

Another enthusiastic advocate was Professor Melville Saayman, of Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society at North West University.

Saayman is an avid publisher of tourism research and agreed a big opportunity was waiting to be grabbed.

But he said a single and comprehensive strategy incorporating all the relevant sectors was an essential first step.

• brett.horner@witness.co.za

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