The Muslim travel market is twice the size of China’s and larger than the USA according to a presentation by a Muslim travel expert on the sidelines of the ITB trade show.

The report noted that Muslims spend more than US$126 billion annually on tourism and the numbers are rising.

“Anyone who wants to join the party should think about what this audience wants and needs and tailor their communications and products accordingly,” DinarStandard Muslim market development expert, Reem El Shafaki said.

“When we look at hotels and destinations to see if they are suitable for Muslims we base our assessment on three criteria: must-have, good-to-have and nice-to-have.”

Absolute must: Halal food and cooking as permitted by the Koran; prayer rooms where worshippers can practice their faith are also necessary.

Good to have: Tour operators who can cater for the needs of Ramadan; a breakfast before sunrise and there should be sufficient washing areas.

Nice to have: Family-friendly, alcohol-free hotel with separate wellness or fitness areas for women.

El Shakafi recommended conforming to Sharia principles, which also includes providing prayer rugs, prayer instructions and the Koran in rooms.

If a hotel wants to be successful in core markets such as Arab countries they need to look at all three elements and study what favourite Muslim destinations such as Malaysia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirate have offered.

By offering Muslim-oriented products Queensland in Australia was able to increase its Muslim guests by 38%. These visitors stay an average of three weeks and during this time spend the remarkable sum of US$7,000 dollars per person not counting their air fares. (ITB news service)