Prospects strong for halal tourism in 2022 despite pandemic

Prospects strong for halal tourism in 2022 despite pandemic
This photo taken on January 19, 2018 shows a chef preparing a Halal meal at the Gaia Hotel, which caters to tourists from Muslim-dominant countries, in the Beitou district near Taipei. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 January 2022

Prospects strong for halal tourism in 2022 despite pandemic

Prospects strong for halal tourism in 2022 despite pandemic
  • Pent-up demand, industry-wide adaptation to COVID-19 could fuel global tourism boom
  • UN: Pandemic has cost global tourism industry an estimated $4 trillion 

LOND|ON: Despite the widespread disruption to the tourism industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the rapidly growing halal sector could be set for a bumper year, experts have told Arab News.

The global tourism industry was one of the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic — in November last year, the UN estimated it had lost $4 trillion in revenue over two years.

But 2022 could represent a step-change for the industry as borders reopen and vaccine rollouts kick in — particularly for destinations catering to the needs of Muslim travelers.

Ufuk Seçgin, chief marketing officer at HalalBooking, told Arab News that there is “pent up” demand for travel after two long years of pandemic-related restrictions.

His company, which directs travelers to halal-friendly accommodation, has actually experienced growth since April 2021 “despite all of the turmoil,” said Seçgin.

“We saw an excellent recovery,” he added. “We don’t have any reason to believe that this trend won’t continue.”

Fueling this growth, he said, is the adaptation that both customers and providers — such as airlines and hotels — have made to their travel arrangements.

“Customers are now getting more used to the environment. We have to live with the virus. Yes there will be some travel restrictions and some uncertainty — things can change, as we’ve seen now with omicron,” Seçgin added.

But this constant threat of disruption means that providers are now offering flexible refunds or adjustments to trips should they be required.

Because of this, “people have got confidence, they’ve got understanding that even if a trip is canceled they’ll be able to access full refunds,” said Seçgin.

“A lot of people still haven’t traveled for the last two years so they’re like, ‘OK, 2022 has to be the year’.”

Among the potential beneficiaries of this travel boom, said Seçgin, is Saudi Arabia, which has been investing heavily in its own tourism industry in recent years.

He added that during a recent visit to the Kingdom, he saw the potential in its tourism industry after managing to carry out Umrah, visit Jeddah for snorkeling and explore AlUla’s historical sites all in one trip.

Soumaya Hamdi, founder of the Halal Travel Guide, told Arab News: “One of the trends that we’re going to start seeing in 2022 is that non-conventional locations (for halal travel) are going to start to be more interested in attracting Muslim travelers.”

She said both the New York and Barbados tourist boards had already contacted her for advice on attracting more diverse tourists.

They “want to know how to speak to Muslim travelers,” she added. “That’s one of the key trends we’re going to see going forward: This recognition that halal tourism is here to stay.”

Hamdi echoed Seçgin’s thoughts on how the travel industry and its customers have adapted to the pandemic and its nuances.

“Some countries are making it a requirement that you have to have COVID-19 travel insurance,” she said.

“Jordan, for example, requires you to have travel insurance that covers you for COVID-19-related medical expenses before you enter the country.”

This, she said, “means there are lots of good offers now. At the start of the pandemic this kind of thing wasn’t available, but now they have to offer it.”

These measures have built consumer confidence and added to the wider tourism industry’s resilience to pandemic-related disruption.

Hamdi said her company, which runs halal trips to non-conventional locations, “offers a full service in terms of accommodation, activities and food. When consumers book with us, they know their payment is protected.” She added: “For travel companies, we have to be able to offer consumers that confidence.”


Saudi National Parks Program will benefit environment, communities and tourism, organizers say

The planting of more wild trees will be carried out by staff from the center, along with workers from environmental associations and organizations. The program will be implemented in phases. (Supplied)
The planting of more wild trees will be carried out by staff from the center, along with workers from environmental associations and organizations. The program will be implemented in phases. (Supplied)
Updated 22 January 2022

Saudi National Parks Program will benefit environment, communities and tourism, organizers say

The planting of more wild trees will be carried out by staff from the center, along with workers from environmental associations and organizations. The program will be implemented in phases. (Supplied)
  • The program, launched this month, includes plans to establish 100 national parks within five years and showcase the Kingdom’s natural splendor and treasures

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia’s recently launched National Parks Program will benefit the environment and local communities, and provide a boost to sustainable tourism and by attracting local and foreign visitors, according to the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification.

The program, unveiled by the center this month, includes plans to establish and enhance 100 national parks within five years and showcase the Kingdom’s natural splendor and treasures. It also includes the planting of 50 million trees as part of the Saudi Green Initiative.
Abdul Rahman Al-Dakhil, a spokesman for the center, said that the program will help to achieve the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development and diversification project and the Saudi Green Initiative.
He added that the center will promote and develop the parks program by supporting afforestation efforts and sustainable ecotourism initiatives, while helping to protect the environment in partnership with governmental organizations.
“The program will be implemented in phases, whereby the first phase will target 100 national parks and turn them into sustainable landmarks, followed by other phases and goals,” Al-Dakhil told Arab News.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The program, unveiled by the center this month, includes plans to establish and enhance 100 national parks within five years and showcase the Kingdom’s natural splendor and treasures. It also includes the planting of 50 million trees as part of the Saudi Green Initiative.

• Some areas of land allocated for the development of national parks have special historical, cultural, geological or archaeological significance. The project includes some of the most important sites in the Kingdom, including the Edge of the World, which is located northwest of Riyadh and was formed about 180 million years ago, and the ancient Muawiyah Dam, also known as Saysad Dam.

“Achieving tourism and environmental balance is one of the most important criteria while developing any park.”
The planting of more wild trees will be be carried out by staff from the center, along with workers from environmental associations and organizations.
Some areas of land allocated for the development of national parks have special historical, cultural, geological or archaeological significance. The project includes some of the most important sites in the Kingdom, including the Edge of the World, which is located northwest of Riyadh and was formed about 180 million years ago, and the ancient Muawiyah Dam, also known as Saysad Dam.
Abdulrahman Alsoqeer, chairman of the Environmental Green Horizons Society, said that the Kingdom is experiencing an environmental renaissance, focused on preserving vegetation and expanding afforestation efforts, that is attracting global attention. The National Parks Program is part of this green renaissance, he added.
“Allocating lands for national parks is an important primary step in protecting the vast areas of government lands that are scattered and untapped, and converting them into vast vegetation reserves,” Alsoqeer told Arab News.
He said that there are a number of benefits to establishing and maintaining national parks, including the restoration of vegetation cover that has deteriorated drastically in the recent decades. It can also improve the quality of life by reducing the intensity of dust storms, improving the climate, and enhancing the visual landscape with the addition of more greenery.
In addition, a number of products can be derived from the plants cultivated in the parks, including honey provided by bees that will thrive among the wild plants.
Local communities in the vicinity of the parks will also benefit from increased employment and investment opportunities, enhanced biodiversity, the protection of endangered plant and animal species, and the enhancement of ecotourism and recreation options.


First phase to document the path of Prophet’s journey completed

Documentation of the path was mainly done by panoramic photography 360. Later, the migration of the Prophet will be digitally documented using 4K drones. (Supplied)
Documentation of the path was mainly done by panoramic photography 360. Later, the migration of the Prophet will be digitally documented using 4K drones. (Supplied)
Updated 22 January 2022

First phase to document the path of Prophet’s journey completed

Documentation of the path was mainly done by panoramic photography 360. Later, the migration of the Prophet will be digitally documented using 4K drones. (Supplied)
  • The initiative is part of the preparations to inaugurate Jabal Thawr Cultural Center in Makkah, which seeks to enrich and broaden tourists’ experience

MAKKAH: The organizers of “Rihlat Muhajir” (An Emigrant Journey) have announced that the first phase of the initiative to document the path of the Prophet’s emigration has been completed.

The work with specialists and researchers in the Prophet’s biography is part of the preparations to inaugurate the Jabal Thawr Cultural Center in Makkah, which seeks to enrich and broaden tourists’ experience. This is the aim of Samaya Investment, a company specializing in cultural projects, including national museums, exhibitions, and activities.

Samaya CEO Fawaz Al-Merhej said the “Muhajir” initiative is documenting the path of the Prophet’s emigration using modern technology in aerial documentation and panoramic photography 360.

He said that in the first phase, which was launched on Dec. 20 last year, the team sought all the locations that were cited on the path of the Prophet’s emigration, starting from Cave Thawr on Mount Thawr in Makkah, passing through 40 stations all the way to Quba Mosque in Madinah.

He said the idea of documenting the route came up when they were considering how to present the story of the Prophet’s migration in the Jabal Thawr Cultural Center.

Documentation of the path was mainly done by panoramic photography 360. During the second stage the migration of the Prophet will be digitally documented using 4K drones based on the locations’ coordinates.

The biggest challenges they faced, he said, were the bumpy roads, and the fact that some historical sites had their names changed over time.

A number of scholars specialized in Islamic history and the Prophet’s biography helped in this investigation, including Professor Mohammed bin Samil Al-Salami and Professor Saad bin Musa Al-Musa, of the Department of History and Islamic Civilization at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah, and Professor Sulaiman bin Abdullah Al-Suwaiket and Professor Abdul Aziz bin Ibrahim Al-Omari, of the Department of History and Civilization at Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, who are also members of the scientific committee of the Atlas Biography of the Prophet. Professor Abdullah bin Mustafa Al-Shanqiti, specialized in the landmarks of Madinah and the Prophet’s Biography, also participated in some stages of the project.

 


EgyptAir ‘Green Service Flights’ to cut single-use plastics 

A new “Green Service Flight” logo will mark all sustainable flights and EgyptAir is offering a 40 percent discount on the Cairo to Paris flight. (Reuters/File Photo)
A new “Green Service Flight” logo will mark all sustainable flights and EgyptAir is offering a 40 percent discount on the Cairo to Paris flight. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 19 January 2022

EgyptAir ‘Green Service Flights’ to cut single-use plastics 

A new “Green Service Flight” logo will mark all sustainable flights and EgyptAir is offering a 40 percent discount on the Cairo to Paris flight. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Saturday’s flight, from Cairo, Egypt to Paris, France, will be the first of its kind for an African airline

CAIRO: EgyptAir will operate a new environmentally friendly service on Saturday as part ‘Green Service Flights,’ a new program to combat climate change and pollution.

The new flight category aims to eliminate single-use plastics and pollution. Saturday’s flight, from Cairo, Egypt to Paris, France, will be the first of its kind for an African airline.

Mohamed Manar, Egyptian minister of civil aviation, said that the Egyptian aviation sector “attaches great importance to confronting the effects of climate change.”

Environmental sustainability will be achieved through an “integrated ecosystem” that applies international legalislation to domestic aviation standards, he added.

According to the minister, EgyptAir’s future plan aims to reduce single-use plastics on flights by 90 percent. The airline has identified 27 single-use plastic products, which have been replaced with sustainable alternatives.

A new “Green Service Flight” logo will mark all sustainable flights.

EgyptAir is offering a 40 percent discount on the Cairo to Paris flight.

International Air Transport Association data shows that a single passenger on a short or long-term flight produces about 1.43 kilograms of waste, much of it single-use plastics, which threatens human health and marine life.


Saudi Arabia protecting endangered turtles through rescue programs

Saudi Arabia is committed to preserving and restoring its marine biodiversity through initiatives. (AFP)
Saudi Arabia is committed to preserving and restoring its marine biodiversity through initiatives. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2022

Saudi Arabia protecting endangered turtles through rescue programs

Saudi Arabia is committed to preserving and restoring its marine biodiversity through initiatives. (AFP)
  • Through rehabilitation programs and research studies, the Saudi National Center for Wildlife aims to protect nesting sites of endangered sea turtles to maintain an environment in which they can thrive

JEDDAH: The Saudi National Center for Wildlife has rescued and rehabilitated five turtles found on the coasts of Saudi Arabia.
According to the center, the world’s oceans include seven species of sea turtles, five of which have been discovered in the Kingdom’s territorial waters of the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.
For more than 100 million years, sea turtles have crossed great distances across the world. They play a vital role in maintaining the health and balance of the marine ecosystem.
The Kingdom has recorded sightings of green, hawksbill, loggerhead, olive ridley and leatherback turtles.
According to the center, during nesting season, sea turtles lay 60 to 160 eggs at once. This can be repeated up to six times over the course of a nesting season. In some cases, turtles have been seen to return to the same areas that they were born in more than 40 years later.

FASTFACT

For more than 100 million years, sea turtles have crossed great distances across the world.

The islands of Karan and Jurayad along the Kingdom’s coasts on the Arabian Gulf are found to be primary nesting sites for both the hawksbill and green turtles.
And on the Red Sea, Ra’s Baridi, Farasan Island, Shakir Islands, Ras Al-Shaaban, Jabal Hassan and Sanafir Island are also important locations for the two species.

Sea turtles are facing many threats, including overfishing, pollution, climate change and habitat destruction, mainly due to development in coastal areas and the wildlife trade. (Shutterstock)

Sea turtles are facing many threats, including overfishing, pollution, climate change and habitat destruction, mainly due to development in coastal areas and the wildlife trade.
The World Wildlife Fund has listed the hawksbill and green turtles as “endangered,” while loggerhead, olive ridley and leatherback turtles are classified as “vulnerable.”
Through rehabilitation programs and research studies, the Saudi National Center for Wildlife aims to protect nesting sites of endangered sea turtles to maintain an environment in which they can thrive.
The Kingdom is committed to preserving and restoring its marine biodiversity through initiatives.
Among the many projects to restore and protect marine life, NEOM has launched programs to protect endangered species such as the hawksbill sea turtle and hammerhead shark.
The Red Sea Development Company also works towards implementing initiatives to protect marine life and endangered sea turtles in the Kingdom.
The company, in cooperation with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, early last year worked on the rehabilitation of two hawksbill turtles.
The turtles were safely returned to the waters of Waqadi Island, which will remain untouched and undeveloped as a protected area overseen by the The Red Sea Development Company.
The Saudi National Center for Wildlife continues to set standards for sustainable development initiatives to lay the foundation for marine protection in all future development plans.


Saudi walking wonder completes latest trek to promote AlUla, personal fitness

Saudi walking wonder completes latest trek to promote AlUla, personal fitness
Updated 14 January 2022

Saudi walking wonder completes latest trek to promote AlUla, personal fitness

Saudi walking wonder completes latest trek to promote AlUla, personal fitness
  • In 2020, Nayef Shukri walked in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) following the old Hijrah road, and last year he hiked from Jeddah to NEOM on what he dubbed his Vision 2030 trip

JEDDAH: Saudi walking wonder Nayef Shukri has been putting his best foot forward in a solo mission to promote fitness and his country’s rich heritage.

In his latest marathon meander around the Kingdom, the 33-year-old adventurer recently completed a 760-kilometer trek from Jeddah to AlUla to highlight the desert tourist destination.

Battling through extreme weather conditions and the pain barrier, Shukri covered the distance in 22 days, sleeping along the way in places including gas stations and under trees, and proudly carrying the Saudi national flag.

 

 

With just a backpack and a change of clothes, his only companion was manager Abu Hatem who shadowed him by car to light the route during the night.

Shukri, from Jeddah, said his walk to AlUla had been prompted for two main reasons. “First, out of absolute love for my country and to support tourism in AlUla with the start of the AlUla Season. Another reason for the march, was fitness. I wanted to promote the idea of keeping fit and setting an example for both young and old. 

“It wasn’t just my family and friends who supported this trip. Wherever I went, people would come out in droves to wave and cheer for me. They didn’t know me, nor did I know them, but everyone who saw me walking the flag wished me luck and encouraged me. I felt the true spirit of Saudi Arabia on this trip,” he added.

He pointed out that he wanted to encourage young people to travel within the Kingdom, visit historic sites, learn more about the country’s heritage, and enjoy experiences away from the daily routines of city life.

“Everyone has to discover the abilities in their own body and challenge themselves to discover new skills,” he said. 

In 2020, Shukri walked in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) following the old Hijrah road, and last year he hiked from Jeddah to NEOM on what he dubbed his Vision 2030 trip.

During his walks he has visited many archaeological, historical, and cultural sites including in Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah, Taif, Yanbu, Dammam, Jubail, Al-Ahsa, Asfan, and Badr. 

“It relates to the biography of the Messenger (peace be upon him), and I completed my journey walking in the footsteps of the Messenger, and across the Hijrah Road, the old road, where I covered the distance in eight days and nine nights,” he added.

On his recent AlUla walk, Shukri said: “The hospitality was overwhelming. We knew we would be welcome but the hospitality we received along the way was amazing.”

And posting on social media, he told followers of his joy at arriving in the old city of AlUla. “Finally, we reached it, thanks to God. Thank you all for your support.”