The UAE has been ranked as having the best developed halal travel ecosystem worldwide, according to a new report.
The 2016-2017 Global Islamic Economy report by Thomson Reuters evaluated countries based on four criteria: inbound Muslim travel, the quality of their Halal-friendly ecosystems, awareness campaigns, and the sector’s contribution to employment.
The UAE was followed by Malaysia and Turkey in the global ranking.
Valued at $151bn in 2015, the Muslim travel market is seeing a year-on-year growth rate of 4.9 per cent, higher than the overall travel industry growth of 3 per cent.
The Muslim market, 72 per cent of which originates from OIC countries, is the second largest travel market – next only to China ($168bn) – and ahead of the United States ($147bn), the report found.
Saudi and the UAE alone have an estimated halal travel consumption value of $34.3bn.
Mohammed Saleh Badri, secretary general of the International Halal Accreditation Forum (IHAF), said: “The study has also proven that more and more Muslims are showing strong preference for halal destinations and travel services. Today, it is becoming more important for us to look into the industry and bridge the emerging gaps.
“Stakeholders should start addressing challenges to make the most of the momentum and boost tourism activities.”
A key challenge affecting the industry is poor awareness about it, the study showed.
“We have to note that not everyone understands how halal travel services work, and what makes each component 100 per cent halal. It is every industry stakeholder’s responsibility to assure travellers that what they are availing of is absolutely halal,” Badri said.
Travel is a huge component of the overall halal industry and includes aspects such as the service provided on the plane, the food served in hotels and leisure attractions, the availability of prayer spaces, and beach resort facilities dedicated for women, the report explained.
“Muslim travelers and halal consumers are constantly looking for halal-certified leisure destinations they can trust. Unified standards should be in place in order to satisfy the needs of holidaymakers requiring halal products and services,” Badri added.
IHAF is currently seeking to integrate the prevailing halal criteria across the world into one internationally accepted set of standards.
The forum, headquartered in the UAE, currently has 20 members, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Pakistan, US, UK, Spain, Australia and New Zealand, Egypt, Thailand, Jordan, Argentina, Mexico, Hungary, Italy, India, Brazil, and the Philippines.