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Countries should pay ’special attention’ to halal tourism: UNWTO report

Madrid, SPAIN — The World Tourism Organization, an agency of the United Nations, has released a report on the contribution of Islamic culture and its impact on the Asian tourism market, to help its 157 member states better understand the potential of Islamic tourism and develop policy recommendations to develop the sector.  

“Considered a niche market in the past, the enormous Muslim diaspora of Asia and the Pacific is today a part of mainstream tourism and in that respect countries both within the region, as well as outside it should pay special attention to it,” wrote UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai in the report’s foreword.

Islamic countries already realize the potential of the Muslim-friendly or halal tourism market, says the report, while non-Islamic countries are catching up. 

Particular attention, says the report, has to be paid to the domestic tourism sector that is the main source of the Islamic tourism market.

‘LUCRATIVE’ MUSLIM MARKET

The report highlights the Asia Pacific’s higher than average tourism growth rate, projecting that its 24 percent global market share in 2015 will reach 30 percent by 2030. The region received 279 million visitors in 2015.

The growth has also led to the emergence of a very lucrative market of Muslim travellers in Asia and the Pacific that is home to around 60 percent of the world’s Muslim population.

“One of the characteristics of the Asian tourism market is the rapid growth of the middle class that has come with the financial and social benefits of trade liberalization and globalization. This middle class constitutes the bulk of the Islamic tourism clientele,” added Rifai.

CHALLENGES

The report outlines challenges to the development of tourism in Islamic countries, most of which have been identified by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the context of its 57-member bloc. These include:

1. Lack of technical know-how

2. Weak promotional activity

3. Short supply of well-trained tourism professionals

4. Lack of sufficient infrastructure necessary for the development of a sustainable tourism sector

RECOMMENDATIONS

The report’s recommendations build on those already made by the OIC for promoting intra-OIC travel, which include:

1. Promoting tourism investments

2. Integrating tourism policymaking and overcoming policy conflicts both between and amongst the public and private sectors

3. Streamlining the administrative, regulatory and institutional frameworks

4. Enhancing tourism safety and security

5. Promoting sustainable tourism

6. Upgrading the quality and efficiency of tourism-related infrastructure and services

7. Improving facilitation and accessibility

Key recommendations made by the UNWTO report:

1. Increased cooperation to highlight tourism’s potential to facilitate a better understanding of Islam, alleviate poverty, create jobs for young people, women and small- and medium-sized enterprises, with an ultimate aim to promote inter-faith understanding;

2. Funding for improved restoration and preservation of the many mosques, gardens, forts, monuments and landmarks in the Asia and the Pacific, many of which are suffering from serious neglect. Issues at these sites include everything from landscaping and interpretation to the quality of toilets;

3. Availability of and investment in publicity materials and websites for these sites which, due to the state of disrepair and the lack of publicity, are not popular on the tourist circuit and cannot be financially self-sustaining. In general, governments are reluctant to give them high priority vis-à-vis the other priorities on national budgets;

4. Increased funding from third party sources, such as the Islamic Development Bank. Currently the Bank provides funding for associated sectors, such as transport, infrastructure and education, all of which contribute to travel and tourism, but not directly to the travel and tourism sector.

Source: Salaam Gateway