WTO urges Gulf states to promote Islamic tourism


In its global trends report, the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) said recently that the region should be more assertive role in pursuing the wealth of investment opportunities in the market.

"It is critical for Middle Eastern countries to take concrete steps to develop halal tourism internally," it added.

It added that halal airlines and women-only hotels are just some of the up and coming investment trends currently gaining global popularity.

In the past, due to Saudi Arabia’s strict religious rules prohibiting women from checking in hotels or travelling without the presence of a male family member or written consent from a male guardian, many investors saw it as a fruitless endeavour to invest in Islamic tourism.

However, in recent years, Saudi women have taken a more decisive stance in society and business — currently worth an estimated SR27 billion and holding up to 35 per cent of the Kingdom’s bank accounts based on Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) statistics (Kingdom’s central bank).

Hence more companies in the kingdom are adopting a halal-based business strategy to cater to the needs of the Muslim female traveller and at the same time creating a trend.

Hans-Peter Leitzke, managing director of the Rosewood Corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s first hotel to have a floor exclusively for women, said: "We designed our dedicated Ladies Floor‚ because there is an increased demand for this kind of facility from Arab ladies and female travellers as a whole, and the response so far underlines this."

Since the Rosewood opened its doors nearly five months ago, the hotel has been receiving strong response from female guests.

He said it is expected that other hotels will follow the example in supporting the growing trend.

"We are confident it will establish the Rosewood Corniche as Saudi Arabia’s most sought-after hotel for the female traveller. At the same time, I would not be surprised to see more hotels here and the other parts of the region opening ladies floors," he said.

He explained that apart from Arab women themselves, Arab women’s organisations that need facilities to hold events in privacy and cater to their special needs are also a recognisable source of clientele.

A massive $ 3.63 trillion is being invested in hotels, leisure projects, aviation, cruise lines, tourism promotion and supporting infrastructure, across the Middle East, according to a study ‘The Middle East Industry Outlook 2020’ covering 13 Middle Eastern countries.

The report is an update of a study by Fast Future and Global Futures and Foresight (GFF) on the Future of Travel and Tourism in the Middle East and is sponsored by Siraj Capital, Nakheel and Silverjet.

Strategic partners for the study are the Pacific Asia Travel Association and IMEX Frankfurt.


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