The inaugural edition of World Halal Travel Summit & Exhibition 2015 (WHTS15), supported by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, will take place in the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre from the 19th to 21st of this month. The first-of-its-kind of this scale and nature, the event puts halal travel buyers and influencers directly in touch with companies and countries looking to grow their market share in the halal tourism arena.
Up to 6,000 travel, tourism and hospitality trade professionals are expected over the three-day event, which takes place in halls six and seven over 8,300 square metres of spaces.
Some 200 international exhibitors will be on hand including, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, Islamic Chamber Research and Information Centre, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Tourism Malaysia, Sharjah Investment Authority (Shurooq), HMH Hotels, Etihad Airways, One To One Hotels, Emirates Palace, Visit Jordan, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Premiere Group, Tourism Authority Of Thailand, Landmark Hotels, Jannah Hotels and R Hotels.
We spoke a senior spokesperson from organiser Cacti Events for more details on the one-of-a-kind show:
Why should the world take notice of the halal travel sector?
The global Muslim tourism market in 2014 was estimated at $151 billion in outbound expenditure (not including Hajj and Umrah), according to growth strategy research and advisory firm DinarStandard’s State of the Global Islamic Economy 2013 report.
This constitutes about 12 to 14 per cent of $1,078 billion, the total global tourism expenditure in 2012, as estimated by United Nations World Trade Organisation (UNWTO).
By 2020, DinarStandard estimates the total Muslim tourists’ expenditure to be around $200 billion.
Do you notice any interesting trends in the halal travel sector?
We observe a growing world-wide interest in the halal sector, which is probably due to the enormous growth of the entire market.
Travel agencies from around the world and more and more hotels would like a piece of the halal business. They are either reacting to the growing demands of halal-conscious travellers or would like to tap into this lucrative market.
Demand outnumbers by far the current offer of resorts that cater to the special needs of halal-conscious travellers and hence higher prices can be demanded in comparison to general tourism. Also, a high expenditure item in an all-inclusive resort such as alcohol can be saved entirely.
Even non-practising hotel owners are switching their resorts to Muslim-friendly and family-friendly resorts to benefit from the higher margins in this sector.
Service level and facilities of the hotels will be improved over the next few years to better meet the expectations of the more sophisticated customers. Currently, there is low understanding among the majority of hotels what halal travel actually means.
Though Turkey tops the chart, more and more families are demanding beach resorts in Abu Dhabi, Maldives, Malaysia and Indonesia.
We also observe that halal beach holidays are particularly popular among young Muslim families with young children, honeymooners, as well as practising teenagers who convince their middle-aged parents to spend their next holiday at a halal beach resort.
The biggest demand comes from families with children, who would like to spend their well-deserved school holidays at a resort, which offers child-friendly animation and entertainment programmes and other facilities and services that are aimed at the entertainment and well-being of children.
Besides this, we observe a growing demand for halal city hotels in the main cities such as Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Kuwait, but also places like London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome and Madrid.
Here, hotels can attract a growing customer base by doing small but important changes to their offering.
Please can you share a word of advice for hotels who wish to cater to halal travellers for the first time.
Depending on the extent of importance a property aims to give to the halal market, either switch completely to the dry hotel concept or where possible, reduce alcohol offer to a minimum. This translates to reduced alcohol advertising on the hotel premises, on the restaurant menu or restaurant bar, and remove any alcohol and non-halal foods from the minibar for halal travellers as a minimum.
Where possible, provide a prayer mat, direction to qibla and local prayer times in the room. Where possible, offer toilet showers in all toilets in the hotel.
Again, depending on the property’s inclination, either switch to a complete halal food menu, meaning no pork, all meat from a halal meat supplier, no alcohol, gelatine and animal fats in the food preparation process. If this is not possible, offer some halal food options on the menu as a minimum.
Where possible provide two segregate gyms, or offer ladies-only hours a few hours a day as a minimum, same applies to a spa.
The list of considerations may include introducing modest dress codes for staff, turning off any inappropriate music or TV programmes in the communal areas and removing any inappropriate TV channels in the rooms.
Name one destination that you feel is ripe for halal travel.
Turkey is a world leader, particularly in halal beach holidays, with a growing number of resorts focusing on this sector.
About 70 to 75 per cent of HalalBooking’s business is directed to Turkey, driven by Antalya’s unrivalled Muslim- and family-friendly resort offering.
Its top resorts are typically high-end, alcohol-free and offer halal food, prayer mats and in-room qibla directions. Perhaps more crucially, they are known for their outstanding ladies-only pool and beach facilities in surroundings where privacy is guaranteed. All of the properties HalalBooking offers in Antalya also have separate spa facilities and hammams for ladies and they take care to ensure resort entertainment programme is appropriate for families with young kids.
Thermal resorts in Turkey also become more and more popular among halal-conscious travellers worldwide, particularly during the cold winter period.
What is your vision of WHTS going forward? What are your expectations from WHTS16?
This year, exhibitors have confirmed from Iran, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Croatia, Tanzania, UK, Jordan, United States of America, Canada, Kenya, Lebanon and Morocco to name a few.
More than 35 per cent of visitor pre-registrations received are from outside of the GCC.
Ultimately, WHTS is the most relevant travel trade show in the region.
Our continuing goal is to deliver the most relevant content, while promoting the opportunity for the global travel trade to access the very significant untapped revenue streams associated with both inbound and outbound tourism from Muslim majority countries.
We have already began preparations for the 2016 summit, which will double in size from the inaugural event.
The sponsors and partners of the 2015 event have been amazing.
We have many special relationships and supporters but a special thank you goes out to Tourism Malaysia and HalalBooking.com who committed to the summit before we even had a brochure.
Learn from the best
The World Halal Travel Summit & Exhibition 2015 (WHTS15) has more than 35 free-to-attend seminar sessions.
The seminar programme will run in two dedicated theatres – the WHTS15 seminar theatre, featuring case studies and interactive panels branding, marketing strategy and routes to market; and the ITHMAR seminar theatre, where content will focus on tourism investment in the halal travel sector.
Some important seminar sessions and speakers include:
• A keynote speech from Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Tourism and Culture
• ‘Intra OIC tourism – the next steps’ with Dr Bandar Bin Fahad Al Fuhaid, president, Arab Tourism Organisation
• ‘Halal travel market overview’, with Elnur Seyidli, chairman of the board, HalalBooking.Com
• ‘The need for international quality standard in halal travel market’, with Aldyn Dugonjić, executive director, Centre for Halal Quality Certification, Croatia
• ‘Is halal travel just a fad or is it here to stay?’ with Rafiuddin Shikoh, CEO and managing director, DinarStandard
• ‘Destination marketing, social media and creating routes to market’, with Vaquas Alvi, general manager Middle East & North Africa, Geometry
• ‘Luxury halal travel: What do your customers really want?’ with Nabeel Shariff, director, Serendipity Tailormade Ltd
• ‘Muslim-friendly Malaysia: developing and branding the Islamic tourism sector in a Muslim-majority country’, with Zulkifly Said, director general, Islamic Tourism Centre, Malaysia
• ‘Understanding the difference between a dry hotel versus a halal brand’, with Sanjiv Malhotra, executive vice-president of Shaza Hotels and Philippe Harb, One to One Hotels & Resorts, chief operating officer
• ‘Promoting your destination as halal friendly’, with Dr Abed Al Razzaq Arabiyat, managing director, Jordan Tourism Board.
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