Author: Family Travel Forum Staff
Tags : Adventure Trip, Africa, Asia, Blogs, Europe, Middle East, Multigen, North America, Travel Trends
Travel by Muslims, whether or not they are actively religious or following Islamic social laws, is a market segment known as Halal Travel. (Halal means a code of dietary laws, similar to the kosher dietary rules followed by some Jews.)
The travel industry, particularly in the Middle East and Arab world, has long recognized that even non-religious travelers have cultural preferences that can be easily catered to while they travel.
How Big is the Halal Market
According to sources within the Arab travel industry, Halal Travel is one of the fastest growing travel segments in the world. In 2014, there were 106 million visitors who spent $145 billion on travel and, by 2020, this is expected to grow to 150 million halal visitors worth $200 billion in spending.
Market studies done in preparation for International Travel Week Abu Dhabi (November 22-23, 2016) found that halal visitors -- like most international travelers -- are interested in getting the best value from their trips and finding a travel agent who can add expertise and ease of planning to complex trips.
Of course, travelers originating from the United Arab Emirates, site of the conference, represent a special market because they are among the most prosperous in the world. A study done by YouGov & Expedia in May 2015 found that UAE residents take an average of four vacations per year, and 86% travel for leisure at least once a year.
More people leave the UAE in the summer months to visit cooler climates, spending an average one month on holiday. Many of the same travelers make one or two city stops, for shopping and sightseeing, en route to their final destination. Here's a look at some other interesting statistics about Halal Travelers from International Travel Week Abu Dhabi.
Tips to Accommodate Halal Travel Preferences
The Muslim Travel Index Europe 2014 surveyed travelers from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and UAE visiting Europe, and 93% said it was important to them that the countries they visited catered to a halal lifestyle. Today, these travelers -- well educated, tech savvy, and young (30% are between ages 15-29) -- are interested in flexibile travel packages and are willing to book in advance to get them.
The recent survey also found that halal visitors prefer accommodations that understand their needs. According to their report, "Accommodation should provide a high degree of freedom, while respecting religious principles."
In many Arab communities, restaurants and public spaces are often the gathering spot for men, while woman are rarely seen outside their rooms. Therefore, halal guests look for full-service hotels whose rooms also provide privacy and the ability to prepare meals, perhaps in furnished apartments. Hotels that offer pool hours restricted to men / women only periods also will find customers in this market.
A new product catering to this market is the Hajj & Umrah Travel Medical Kit, designed specifically for the needs of millions of Muslim pilgrims traveling for the holy days of Hajj and Umrah. Developed by Rochester, Minnesota-based Travel Health and Wellness LLC, who also publish a travel health app, the kit helps travelers cope with the heat and crowds expected in Mecca, Saudi Arabia from September 9-14, 2016. In addition to oral rehydration salts (dehydration is a common occurrence at these events), the kit contains travel-sized items for sanitation, cuts, bruises, allergies and more -- useful for any destination and travelers of any faith.
Halal Travelers Prioritize Family Destinations
The YouGov & Expedia study noted that 60% of UAE residents travel with their families or large groups, especially over the Muslim holidays. Families and large groups tend to travel longer, too -- an average of 17 days per trip. According to International Travel Week Abu Dhabi, these travelers prefer family-friendly destinations which are less likely to feature entertainment that might offend their customs.
Because of the laws governing the handling of foods, destinations with a wide variety of halal dining offerings (especially high-end, local cuisine) are topping their lists. Halal visitors also appreciate destinations offering facilities for prayer and tours that schedule around them, as religious Muslims may pray five times per day.
Lastly, the survey cautions travel planners to provide thoughtful transportation options. As women may not be used to being out in public, private drivers are a practical option for sightseeing and airport transfers, and certainly more convenient for large families.