With spending on family travel expected to rise dramatically among the Middle East’s wealthiest, Muslim travel insiders say it is family-friendly and female-only facilities that could attract their attention.
“70 to 75 percent of HalalBooking.com’s business is to Turkey, and is driven mainly by Antalya’s unrivalled Muslim-friendly and family-friendly resort offering,” says Tarek Roshdi, the Arabic marketing manager of HalalBooking.com, which claims to be a world leader in travel aimed at the Muslim market — a sector that analysts estimate could be worth $200 billion by 2020—or 11 percent of the world’s travel market.
“[Turkey’s] top resorts are typically high-end, alcohol free and offer halal food, prayer mats and in-room qibla directions, but more crucially are known for their outstanding ladies-only pool and beach facilities in surroundings where privacy is 100 percent guaranteed,” Roshdi adds.
The 2014 Visa Affluent Index report claimed families in countries like the UAE were regularly setting aside more than half their monthly income for family travel and that this figure was expected to rise by 50 percent in 2015.
The report also said these families were increasingly heading toward Turkey, now one of the most popular holiday destinations amongst Gulf families, second only to Malaysia, according to the MasterCard CrescentRating 2015 Global Muslim Travel Index.
For those inside the industry this comes as no surprise given that many Middle Eastern countries have a conservative approach toward gender, observing separation of the sexes except in family-friendly spaces.
“The success of places along the south coast of Turkey, where segregated and family-friendly beaches have been introduced makes clear that these do appeal to a more conservative section of the Muslim travel demographic,” says Nabeel Shariff, the founder of Luxury Halal Travel.
Roshdi goes even further. His company website markets in big letters “beaches and pools for women and families” and he believes these services could be real game changers.
“The availability of women-only beaches, swimming pools, spas, with guaranteed privacy, offers a uniquely enjoyable environment, enabling girls and women to enjoy those facilities in full privacy from men. This allows them to wear swimming costumes, sunbathe, swim, relax and enjoy. Clearly, this is by far the most attractive element of the ‘halal resort.’ So even if a particular resort or hotel does not have a no-alcohol policy, or may have some non-halal items on its restaurants’ menu, it is still very much worth it to offer those women-only facilities. However, attention must be paid to offering family facilities as well, where the family as a whole can be together.”
Bassma Al Toaimi, an executive editor at Saudi Arabia’s Rumman, which produces lifestyle magazines, agrees that these types of facilities would certainly appeal to the Gulf client.
“Generally speaking, segregated beaches would be more attractive to Middle Eastern tourists,” she said.
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