Family tourism fuels Islamic economy growth

Islamic economy in the Arab world is accelerating, and family tourism is a significant factor fueling this growth.

The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry says family tourism has emerged as a major segment of the Islamic economy, accounting for as much as 12.5 percent of the $ 1.07 trillion global tourism market in 2012.

The size and potential of this market can be estimated from the fact that it is larger than the world’s largest conventional tourism market, the United States, which constitutes only 11.4 percent of the global market.

The report, based on Thomson Reuters data, has been released as part of the preparations for the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) to be held in the last week of October in Dubai.

“With Muslim travelers constituting a major segment of the global tourism traffic, the priorities of families have become critical to the tourism industry’s growth, and have redefined the focal areas for tourism activities,” says Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“The findings of the Dubai Chamber report are of much significance in the light of the Dubai Capital of Islamic Economy initiative, launched in 2013, which has identified family tourism as an important pillar and a major growth area.

“Dubai is strategically positioned to become a center for family tourism as it aims to become the capital of Islamic economy and builds its tourism infrastructure to create family oriented hospitality services and facilities in accordance with Islamic practices.”

The UAE is ranked second globally based on criteria set by Crescent rating, a leading Muslim travel rating organization based in Singapore, receiving a rating of 7.0, the report states. Saudi Arabia and Morocco also appear among the top global destinations with a rating of 6.5 and 6.4 respectively.

Meanwhile, the highest rating of 8.4 was awarded to Malaysia; which has helped the country attract over 170,000 visitors from the GCC alone in 2013. However, the report points out that, unlike Malaysia, the UAE is both a top source of Muslim tourists, as well as a top destination, which naturally places it in a great position to become a hub for the global family-travel segment.

Notably, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) states account for seven of the top 10 family tourism friendly destinations among the Organization of Islamic Countries nations.

According to the report, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations contribute as much as 31 percent of the total spending by travelers in tourism-related activities. This is despite the relatively low population in the region, which makes up just three per cent of the global Muslim population.

Saudi Arabia is also one of the top source markets for family tourism, accounting for $17.1bn in spending in 2012, the Dubai Chamber report says. While the UAE follows with spending worth $10.1bn, travelers from Kuwait accounted for $7.4bn in spending.

The report identifies Iran as the leading source market in the Middle East with $18.2bn in spending by its travelers.

Citing recent studies related to the Islamic economy, the Dubai Chamber report shows that family tourism has grown in value from $137bn in 2012 to $140bn in 2013, and is expected to surpass $181bn by 2018.