Halaal tourism: Why isn’t South Africa reaping the benefits?

Here is a peculiar picture: there are 1.8-billion Muslims in the world who, in 2011, spent $126-billion on tourism.

This is 12.3% of the world’s total outbound tourism expenditure. In domestic currency terms it is approximately R1197-billion but South Africa does not see much of it.

To put the sum into context, in 2011 German tourists spent $111.8-billion, travellers from the US spent $93.99-billion, Chinese accounted for $65-billion and residents of the United Kingdom spent $60.6-billion. It is estimated that the world’s Muslim population will be 2.2-billion in 2030 (26.4% of the global population) and that Muslim tourism expenditure is expected to reach $1 92-billion by 2020.

Most Muslim tourists hail from Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Indonesia, Kuwait, Turkey, Nigeria, Malaysia, Qatar and Egypt, with their preferred destinations being Malaysia, Turkey, UAE, Singapore, Russia, China, France, Thailand and Italy. Why? Because these countries cater for halaal tourism, which is the total tourism experience permissible under Islamic law.

Professor Melville Saayman, director of the focus area Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society at the Potchefstroom campus of the North-West University says: “We have an abundance of mosques and restaurants that serve halaal food. South Africa is perfectly geared for halaal tourism and we should start marketing the country as such.

“Halaal tourism is a massive opportunity for the country to expand its influence as we reach previously untapped markets,” says Saayman, who is conducting research on this from a South African perspective.

According to Saayman, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape are ideal tourist destinations because of both provinces’ high Muslim contingent. “Besides the restaurants, the mosques and the facilities we have Table Mountain, the Big-Five, pristine beaches, great weather and a very favourable exchange rate. There are ample points of interest all waiting for a new, wealthy market.”

Muslims in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Malaysia, Qatar, Russia, France, Libya, the United States, Algeria and Singapore have the most purchasing power, while Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh have the largest Muslim populations. “Cities such as Durban and Cape Town must make a conscious decision to focus on these markets and to promote themselves accordingly,” Saayman says.

Amendments do, however, need to be made. Female staff in hotels must observe Islamic dress codes, hotels must provide miswak (a teeth cleaning twig) to Muslim tourists, there must be no alcohol in hotel rooms and toilet and bathroom facilities must be in accordance with Islamic practices. Most important is halaal food. Kitchen must know which foods are allowed and how to prepare them.

These are but a few small adjustments that can turn a peculiar picture into a very lucrative one.

This article was supplied and approved by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers. It forms part of a larger supplement.

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