From halal spas to free prayer rooms at airport terminals, the global tourism industry is gearing up for a projected boom in Muslim travel over the next decade, experts say.
This is just as some multi-national hotel brands in Nigeria having recognised this veritable market and are set to exploit it by positioning products they believe will help to corner it and ultimately with a view to growing their revenue base in the country’s highly competitive hospitality industry.
While hotels giants of the West African coast, the Golden Tulip, Festac, Lagos unveils its ‘Live the Ramadan Spirit; campaign to lure Muslims, the global hotel chain Starwood Hotel and Resorts’ brand in Nigeria, the Sheraton Hotels Abuja and Lagos have opted for the SPG Ramadan for the same purpose.
Located in the Festac area of Lagos and officially opened for business barely two years ago, the Golden Tulip, Lagos, assures its Muslim guests ‘the authentic Ramadan experience for 30 consecutive days’ in what it believes is the first time any hospitality establishment will embark on such a promotion in Lagos.
The hotel while offering daily Ramadan buffet, with introduction of different flavours from Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia, and a selection of famous Ramadan sweets and beverages, also offers a Nigerian corner complete with barbeque dishes.
“We want you to tune with variety of Arabic rhythms, live Nigerian entertainment and the famous Ramadan Tanoura show, brought to you all the way from Egypt everyday at the vicinity of the pool area. We also want you to tantalize your senses and enjoy a fusion of various cultures at the comfort of our excellent services and unique atmosphere. We will also cater for group itfar events and will offer a free itfar for every 10 itfar bookings,” said the Deputy General Manager of Golden Tulip, Festac, Lagos, Mr. Shousha Mohsen.
For the Starwood Hotels and Resorts brands in Nigeria, the Sheraton Hotels in Lagos and Abuja will accord special treatments to Muslims in the month of Ramadan as they prepare to roll out the carpet to receive them through their Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) programme.
The Nigerian hotel brands of Starwood will along with 37 others in countries of the Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean through the SPG programme celebrate the Holy Month of Ramadan offering SPG members a 20 per cent discount on Iftars.
Iftar guests at participating hotels will also have the opportunity to sign up for SPG on the spot, allowing them to benefit immediately from the discount.
Celebrating the heritage of selflessness during the Holy Month, SPG is also launching its Ramadan Giving contest, in which members will have the opportunity to nominate a friend or family member to share a VIP package to the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November.
The Formula One package will include full-day VIP passes, exclusive Formula One hospitality and access to the pit lane during the pit lane walk. The winners will also have an exclusive meet-and-greet with one of the Mercedes AMG Petronas drivers along with merchandise from the team. To top it off, the winners will be hosted at the luxurious The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, which will open later this year.
“The Holy Month of Ramadan is a great opportunity for us to offer our SPG members more meaningful benefits and give them the chance to enjoy quality time with their family and friends,” said Steven Taylor, Vice President Marketing, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, adding further: “We are excited about adding the Formula One VIP experience to our Ramadan campaign this year. This region has a large number of motoring enthusiasts, many of which are valued SPG members who would appreciate the chance to share this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with a family member or friend.”
The study on the growing on number and affluence of Muslim tourists means Muslims, especially from the oil-rich Middle East, are travelling like never before, and it is a trend that looks set to gather pace.
According to the study, spending by Muslim tourists is growing faster than the global rate and is forecast to reach $US192 billion a year by 2020, up from $US126 billion in 2011, according to a study by two companies specialising in the market.
The study was conducted in 47 countries by Singapore-based halal travel specialist Crescentrating, along with DinarStandard, a US-based firm that tracks the Muslim lifestyle market.
Crescentrating chief executive Fazal Bahardeen said Muslim-majority states such as Egypt, Malaysia and Indonesia were already favourite destinations, but non-Islamic countries are now “taking a serious look” at Muslim holidaymakers.
Malaysia, the number-one destination according to the findings, attracts Muslim visitors even during the ongoing fasting month of Ramadan.
Mohammed Ali Alali, 23, a petroleum engineering student from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, went there on honeymoon with his bride, a 20-year-old medicine student.
“It’s not that far from Saudi Arabia and it’s less expensive to travel here rather than Europe. It’s also an Islamic country so that helps in many ways, like to find a mosque and Arabic food,” he said after breaking fast at an Arabic restaurant in the capital Kuala Lumpur.
The availability of halal food tops the list of Muslim travellers’ requirements, according to the survey.
Destinations such as Thailand and Australia, especially the Gold Coast, are already taking into account these travellers’ needs in their services and facilities, Fazal said.
That includes prayer rooms at airports and hotels, halal restaurants and even spas adapted to religious requirements.
“Why not try Gold Coast for a cooler Ramadan this year?” says the tourism website of Australia’s Queensland state. With a long history of welcoming Middle Eastern visitors and a large resident community, facilities for Muslims in Gold Coast, Australia keep getting better every year.”
The Economist Intelligence Unit had in a March report reported that meeting the needs of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims is fuelling business opportunities in numerous sectors.
“From food and Islamic finance, the industry is spreading its wings into pharmaceuticals, fashion and tourism, among many other areas,” it said, noting more than half of the world’s Muslim population is aged 24 or younger, many of them well-educated.
Thailand is hungrily eyeing the Muslim travel boom. Its tourism authority, which has an office in Dubai, is promoting halal spas for Muslim tourists, who require strict privacy for male and female clients.
It also organised a month-long festival of Thai cuisine in the United Arab Emirates from June 8 to July 7.
Crescentrating’s study ranked Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport the most Islam-friendly airport in a non-Muslim country.
And it found that tourists from the Gulf; Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are the sector’s biggest spenders.
Gulf countries accounted for 37 per cent of Muslim tourist spending in 2011 even though they represent a mere three percent of the global Muslim population.