Family tourism emerges as major growth area in Islamic economy

The UAE is positioned high in the new emerging travel market since family values are embedded in the UAE culture

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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, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has stated in its latest research note based on Thomson Reuters data.

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 US, which is only 11.4 percent of the global market.

The report has been released as part of the preparations for the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF), scheduled to be organized by Dubai Chamber and the WIEF Foundation in Dubai on Oct. 28-30, 2014.

“Family tourism is one of the most vibrant areas of the global tourism industry and a key element of the Islamic economy. With Muslim travelers constituting a major segment of the global tourism traffic, the priorities of families have become critical to tourism industry’s growth and have redefined the focal areas for tourism activities,” said Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Chamber.

“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 of 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,” Al Ghurair added.

Highlighting the potential for the UAE market, the Dubai Chamber report says the UAE is ranked first on the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2013 in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) category.

The UAE is positioned high in the new emerging travel market since family values are embedded in the UAE culture.

In fact, the country 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 figure 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 OIC 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 3 percent of the global Muslim population.

Saudi Arabia is also one of the top source markets for family tourism, accounting for $17.1 billion in spending in 2012, the Dubai Chamber report said.

While the UAE follows with spending worth $10.1 billion, travellers from Kuwait accounted for $7.4 billion in spending.

Interestingly, the report has identified Iran as the leading source market in the Middle East with $18.2 billion 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 $137 billion in 2012 to $140 billion in 2013, and is expected to surpass $181 billion by 2018.

Driven by population growth in Islamic nations and the healthy economic performance of these economies, industry experts forecast that family tourism sector will enjoy solid growth of 4.79 percent annually until 2020 – higher than the global average of 3.8 percent growth – reflecting its growing significance in the Islamic economy.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.