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.”


Visitors take a trip to Saudi Arabia’s Taif to rejuvenate in nature

The popular tourist location has a number of hotels and resorts designed and built to fit in with the natural landscape. (SPA)
The popular tourist location has a number of hotels and resorts designed and built to fit in with the natural landscape. (SPA)
Updated 13 August 2022

Visitors take a trip to Saudi Arabia’s Taif to rejuvenate in nature

The popular tourist location has a number of hotels and resorts designed and built to fit in with the natural landscape. (SPA)
  • The region has more than 2,000 flower farms that produce more than 200 million roses every season

TAIF: Visitors from all over the Kingdom and the Gulf are flocking to Taif this summer to get respite from the heat and rejuvenate in the region’s mountains.

The popular tourist location has a number of hotels and resorts designed and built to fit in with the natural landscape, several of which are also working farms or have beautiful gardens planted with the famous Taif roses and wild plants including basil, al-baitran, and marjoram.

Tourists and visitors can also stay in cozy, rural hostels made of old stone ornamented with carvings and sculptures of animals, where they can enjoy stunning views of the mountains and valleys of Taif, which are home to a variety of rare birds.

The city and other nearby areas such as Al-Hada and Al-Shifa are also famous for their fruits.

The region has more than 2,000 flower farms that produce more than 200 million roses every season. Taif roses have historic, economic and religious importance. The oil is used to perfume the walls of the Kaaba, which is also washed twice annually with its scented water.

Besides basking in nature, visitors to Taif can also visit museums, local markets, rose factories in Al-Shafa and Al-Hada, the cable car, a strawberry farm, the zoo, and historic castles.

 


 


Crushed by war, Syrian tourism eyes expat uptick

A visitor uses a mobile phone as she walks at Al Azem Palace in Damascus, Syria July 31, 2022. (REUTERS)
A visitor uses a mobile phone as she walks at Al Azem Palace in Damascus, Syria July 31, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 August 2022

Crushed by war, Syrian tourism eyes expat uptick

A visitor uses a mobile phone as she walks at Al Azem Palace in Damascus, Syria July 31, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • Foreign visitors to Syria today come mostly from countries that have good relations with President Bashar al-Assad's government
  • Syria's economy is in dire straits, hurt by factors including a precipitous decline in the currency's value since 2019, prompted by neighbouring Lebanon's financial collapse

DAMASCUS: Somar Hazim had high hopes when he opened a hotel in Damascus in 2009, adding to a growing number of boutique guest houses in the Old City that were proving to be a hit with tourists, before war broke out and forced him to close down.
Although security returned to Damascus years ago, big-spending foreign visitors have not, with Syria still fractured by war.
Hazim has no plans to reopen his Beit Rose Hotel, an 18th century house with rooms set around a picturesque courtyard, a decision that reflects the weakness of tourism and the wider economy of a country suffering from 11 years of conflict.

People sit at a rooftop lounge in Damascus, Syria August 3, 2022. (REUTERS)

“The number of foreign tourists in Syria — as they were before 2011 ... are still few,” said Hazim, smoking a water pipe at a cafe he owns in another old Damascene house. But he sees a glimmer of hope: more Syrian expats are visiting.
At its peak in 2010, Syria attracted 10 million tourists, many of them Westerners. That all changed in 2011 with the onset of the war that has killed at least 350,000 people and uprooted half the population, forcing millions abroad as refugees.
Foreign visitors to Syria today come mostly from countries that have good relations with President Bashar Assad’s government. They include Iraqis, Lebanese and Iranians on pilgrimage to sites revered by Shiite Muslims.

A man and a woman play backgammon at Somar Hazim's cafe in Damascus, Syria July 31, 2022. (REUTERS)

Visitor numbers rose to 750,000 in the first half of 2022 from 570,000 in the same period of 2021, Tourism Minister Mohammed Rami Martini told Reuters, attributing the rise to the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
He expects visitor numbers this year to recover to levels last seen in 2018 and 2019.
“We have close to 100,000 Iraqis, and there are Lebanese and others from friendly states. But the biggest number are the expatriates,” he said, describing this as a boost to the economy because they spend amounts similar to foreign tourists.
Syria’s economy is in dire straits, hurt by factors including a precipitous decline in the currency’s value since 2019, prompted by neighboring Lebanon’s financial collapse.

Sami Alkodaimi, a Syrian expatriate who lives in Saudi Arabia, uses his laptop at his home in Damascus, Syria August 6, 2022. (REUTERS)

Subsidies on essential goods have been gradually lifted, with prices of items such as fuel rising to unprecedented levels.
Although the currency’s collapse has boosted the purchasing power of expatriates visiting with wads of foreign currency, the gaps in some basic provisions has been frustrating.
Sami Alkodaimi, a Syrian expatriate who lives in Saudi Arabia, stayed away from the country from 2011 to 2019, during the peak of the country’s conflict.
In Syria this summer, Alkodaimi said he felt less hope during this visit, noting higher prices, fuel shortages, and poor electricity provision in the heat of summer.
“I came in my car from Riyadh. The gasoline issue is very annoying. We are trying to obtain it, but with difficulty,” he said.


Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha lavender garden becomes new tourism icon in region

Al-Baha is one of Saudi Arabia’s top tourist destinations, and even visitors from the GCC flock to the city. (SPA)
Al-Baha is one of Saudi Arabia’s top tourist destinations, and even visitors from the GCC flock to the city. (SPA)
Updated 30 July 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha lavender garden becomes new tourism icon in region

Al-Baha is one of Saudi Arabia’s top tourist destinations, and even visitors from the GCC flock to the city. (SPA)
  • The picturesque garden is located in the middle of Raghadan Forest Park

AL-BAHA: Since the start of the summer season in the Kingdom, the Al-Baha region has witnessed a large number of visitors and vacationers coming from various regions and governorates due to its cool weather and picturesque locations.

Al-Baha is one of Saudi Arabia’s top tourist destinations, and visitors from the GCC flock to the area to enjoy nature in a pleasant environment.

This summer, Al-Baha opened another prominent tourist site, its lavender garden, which is located in the middle of Raghadan Forest Park.

HIGHLIGHT

The 500-meter walkway linking the two areas is covered with natural stone and one can see waterfalls while walking down a path illuminated by 270 decorative light poles, as well as flowerbeds, sitting areas, wooden crossings and kiosks.

Mayor of the region, Dr. Ali Al-Suwat, said that the lavender garden and the central area of the Raghadan Forest were located on an area of more than 20,000 sq. m. The lavender garden occupies an area of 5,000 sq. m.

The 500-meter walkway linking the two areas is covered with natural stone and one can see waterfalls while walking down a path illuminated by 270 decorative lighting poles, as well as flowerbeds, sitting areas, wooden crossings and kiosks.

Al-Suwat said that parks and gardens have been added this year in the Al-Baha region on an area exceeding 400,000 sq. m.

Al-Suwat said that the region’s municipality aims to raise the per capita share of green land areas as the Al-Baha region is among eight tourist destinations covered by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, and receives large numbers of visitors and vacationers annually.


Egypt to launch global tourism campaign

Egypt to launch global tourism campaign
He said the number of tourists in Egypt in the last quarter of 2021 was the same as in the same period in 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 July 2022

Egypt to launch global tourism campaign

Egypt to launch global tourism campaign

CAIRO: Egypt’s minister of tourism and antiquities has announced the launch of an international tourism campaign on Sept. 27.

The three-year campaign will promote Egyptian tourist destinations worldwide, said Khaled El-Anany, adding that there is a plan to reduce the cost of domestic flights.

He said the number of tourists in Egypt in the last quarter of 2021 was the same as in the same period in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

El-Anany added that he expects tourism to increase with the holding of the UN Climate Change Conference in November in Sharm El-Sheikh.


UAE’s Sheikh Mohamed tours Paris landmarks as ambassador shows off look by Emirati designer

UAE’s Sheikh Mohamed tours Paris landmarks as ambassador shows off look by Emirati designer
Updated 19 July 2022

UAE’s Sheikh Mohamed tours Paris landmarks as ambassador shows off look by Emirati designer

UAE’s Sheikh Mohamed tours Paris landmarks as ambassador shows off look by Emirati designer

DUBAI: UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan visited the Arc de Triomphe and the residence of France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on the final day of his Paris trip, while Ambassador Hend Al-Otaiba showed off Emirati creativity by wearing an ensemble by designer Ahmed AlKhyeli during the visit.

The UAE president was in the country to witness the signing of two major energy agreements, alongside French leader Emmanuel Macron.

The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, standing at the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle. The monument honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Sheikh Mohamed (L) is greeted by the French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, on the steps of the l’Hotel de Matignon, the official residence of the Prime Minister, in Paris on July 19. (AFP)

Sheikh Mohamed laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, within the Arc de Triomphe. “A salute to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of their countries,” he wrote in the visitors' book.

Sheikh Mohamed then travelled to Hotel Matignon, Ms Borne's official residence, where a military band played and cavalry saluted before he attended a meeting between French and Emirati delegations.

 

Additionally, Hend Al-Otaiba, the first ever woman ambassador to France for the United Arab Emirates, made waves in Paris as she wore a bespoke creatiob by Emirati designer Ahmed AlKhyeli for the state dinner at Versailles Palace. AlKhyeli’s couture house is based in London.

Officials from the two countries also signed a broader strategic agreement to cooperate in the energy sector. The partnership aimed to identify joint investment projects in France, the UAE or elsewhere in the sectors of hydrogen, renewable and nuclear energy, the French government said.