Halal tourism, which emphasizes religious restrictions in the vacation and travel sectors, might be the next big thing for Turkey as it is estimated to account for 30 percent of the $50 billion tourism revenue target in 2023.
Halal tourism is gaining more interest in the world, with facilities offering halal tourism services increasing to 350 - 160 of these in Turkey. It is also expected that annual revenues from halal tourism will climb to $200 billion within five years. Consumers who are willing to take a holiday according to their Islamic beliefs and in accordance with Islamic rules will enjoy hotels with prayer rooms, no alcoholic drinks, segregated swimming pools for men and women and other special family services.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), the general manager of Turkey's first halal tourism tour operator Evratur, Cüneyt Çetin, said it is possible for Turkey to reach its target of $50 billion in tourism revenue target by reaching out to emerging markets and services such as halal tourism. He said that 35 percent of Turkey's annual income is from tourism revenues. However, since this is a new emerging area, they do not have detailed statistics even though it is estimated that 90 percent of the families using halal tourism facilities are from Turkey, while the remaining 10 percent are Turkish expats and immigrants living abroad.
He announced the results of the research study Crescent Rating conducted last year, and said Muslims have spent $160 billion in total for the hajj and ummah, accounting for 51 percent of global tourism revenues. This means that in 2014, halal tourism's share in the industry was around 7.5 percent, accounting for approximately $82 billion.
With new seaside, thermal and city hotels that specialize in halal tourism opening in Turkey and the second World Halal Tourism Conference to be held from March 21 to March 31, 2016, at the Haliç Congress Center in Istanbul, Turkey is becoming a halal tourism center. He also added that the Culture and Tourism Ministry is now establishing a new Halal Tourism Union.
160 halal tourism facilities in Turkey
Turkey currently follows Malaysia in global halal tourism, and as Çetin said, it has promising potential with its 1,000-year Islamic culture, which could make Turkey the leader of the global halal tourism industry.
In order to reach Turkey's 2023 targets, current markets should grow by around 3.3 percent each year, which requires the tourism industry to conquer new markets such as the halal tourism market. According to Çetin, since Turkey is a leading country according to Muslims from all around the world, with such an initiative it will become an even bigger force. "The halal tourism market doesn't have a leader yet and the standards are also waiting to be set. Therefore, determining the standards, submitting them and gaining approval from the Islamic Countries Standards and Metrology Institute will not be that hard. Whichever country determines the standards will become the sector leader" Çetin said.
Ufuk Seçgin of halalbooking.com, which offers services for the sector, highlighted that with 260 destinations offered by Turkish Airlines, it has become much more convenient to travel to Turkey. He added that along with various alternative beach holiday facilities offered, especially in the Alanya region, Turkey is also a global leader in offering halal thermal holiday facilities.
Halal tourism's revenue will reach $200 billion in 5 years
Along with Turkey, various entrepreneurs have been establishing urban halal hotels in Abu Dhabi, Indonesia and Malaysia. Moreover, while the number of hotels increase in these regions, halal tourism's revenue will swell to $200 billion within 5 years. Currently, bookings to Turkey are mostly made from Germany, France, the U.K. and Russia, and while most of their customers are from Western Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, the demand from Arab countries other than Gulf countries is also increasing.
'Turkey needs to be promoted on global platforms'
Seçgin added that five-star holiday villages should be improved to offer high-quality services and accommodate different customer groups. "We need separate swimming pools and beaches at holiday destinations. Furthermore, English-speaking personnel should be hired and Turkey needs to promote itself as an alternative holiday destination on global platforms," Seçgin said.