LONDON | ON: Despite widespread disruption to the tourism industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the rapidly growing halal sector could have a record year, experts told Arab News.
The global tourism industry has been one of the sectors hardest hit 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 sea change for the industry as borders reopen and vaccine roll-out kicks off, especially for destinations serving the needs of Muslim travelers.
Ufuk Seçgin, director of marketing at HalalBooking, told Arab News there was “pent-up” demand for travel after two long years of restrictions linked to the pandemic.
His business, which directs travelers to halal-friendly accommodation, has actually seen growth since April 2021 “despite all the turbulence,” Seçgin said.
“We saw a great recovery,” he added. “We have no reason to believe this trend will not continue.
The engine of this growth, he said, is the adjustment that customers and suppliers – such as airlines and hotels – have made to their travel arrangements.
“Customers are now getting used to the environment more. We have to live with the virus. Yes there will be travel restrictions and some uncertainty – things can change, as we have seen now with omicron, ”added Seçgin.
But this constant threat of disruption means providers now offer flexible refunds or travel adjustments when needed.
Because of this, “people have confidence, they understand that even if a trip is canceled, they will be able to access a full refund,” Seçgin said.
“A lot of people still haven’t traveled in the last couple of years, so they’re like, ‘OK, 2022 has to be the year.’
Among the potential beneficiaries of this travel boom, Seçgin said, is Saudi Arabia, which has invested heavily in its own tourism industry in recent years.
He added that on a recent visit to the Kingdom, he saw the potential of its tourism industry after successfully performing Umrah, visiting Jeddah for snorkeling and exploring the historic sites of AlUla in one trip.
Soumaya Hamdi, founder of the Halal Travel Guide, told Arab News: “One of the trends that we will start to see in 2022 is that unconventional locations (for halal travel) will start to be more interested in attracting travelers. Muslims.
She said the New York and Barbados tourist boards had already contacted her for advice on how to attract more diverse tourists.
They “want to know how to talk to Muslim travelers,” she added. “This is one of the key trends that we are going to see in the future: 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 require you to have COVID-19 travel insurance,” she said.
“Jordan, for example, requires that you have travel insurance that covers you for medical expenses related to COVID-19 before entering the country. “
That, she said, “means there are a lot of good offers now. When the pandemic started, that sort of thing was not available, but now they have to offer it.”
These measures have boosted consumer confidence and strengthened the resilience of the tourism industry at large in the face of disruption from the pandemic.
Hamdi said his company, which organizes halal trips to unconventional places, “offers full service in terms of accommodation, activities and food. When consumers book with us, they know their payment is protected. She added: “For travel agencies, we need to be able to deliver that confidence to consumers. “