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

Christi Cloete -- Wed, 06/12/2013 - 00:00

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

Here is a peculiar picture: there are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world that, in 2011, spent $126 billion on tourism or 12.3% of the globes total outbound tourism expenditure.

In domestic currency terms that is approximately R 1197 billion.  Nothing overly odd about that, but hold on. To put the sum into context, in 2011 German tourists spent $111.8 billion, travellers from the USA spent $93.99 billion, Chinese accounted for $65 billion and residence from the United Kingdom spent $60.6 billion.
 
Now, take into consideration that it is estimated that the world’s Muslim population will be 2.2 billion in 2030 (or 26.4% of the global population) and that Muslim tourism expenditure is expected to reach $192 billion by 2020.

That’s a lot of potential though...for a select few. The most Muslim tourists hail from Saudi Arabia, Iran , 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 Halal tourism which is the total tourism experience permissible under Islamic law.

Back to that aforementioned peculiar picture and the absence of South Africa’s name as a preferred destination. Professor Melville Saayman, director of the focus area Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society (TREES), at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University explains: “We have an abundance of mosques and restaurants that serve Halal food. South Africa is perfectly geared for Halal tourism and we should start marketing the country as such.

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

According to him KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape are ideal tourist destination 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 USA, Algeria and Singapore and have the most purchasing power, whilst 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 explains.
 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 importantly is Halal 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.