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Islamic Lifestyle
Tourists in Saudi Arabia spend $67bn in 2023

Saudi Arabia received more than 106 million tourists in 2023, who collectively spent in excess of 250 billion Saudi riyals ($66.7 billion). 

The kingdom received 79.3 million domestic tourists, up 2% year-on-year, while the number of international tourists reached 27.4 million, a 65% increase over 2022. 

 Overall tourist figures increased 12% year-on-year and were up 56% from 2019. 

The kingdom achieved the tourism milestone “seven years ahead of the initial goal”, Saudi’s tourism ministry said in a statement.

This has prompted the country to set a new target of welcoming 150 million tourists a year by the end of the decade.  

Tourism minister Ahmed Al Khateeb said that the announcement demonstrates the scale of transformation since the national tourism strategy was launched five years ago. 

Tourism is central to the country’s diversification plan to reduce its dependence on oil. Last month, the Saudi Tourism Authority launched a marketing campaign starring footballer heavyweight Lionel Messi, to dispel misconceptions about the country. The campaign targeted key markets of Europe, India and China. 

“The kingdom's success story is built on a foundation of strategic initiatives and reforms that have propelled its tourism sector to new heights,” the World Tourism Organization (UN Tourism) said. 

Demand for tourism activity licenses increased 390% last year, while contribution to non-oil gross value added exceeded an estimated 7%. The sector offered 925,000 jobs as of 2023, with the kingdom aiming to make tourism the second-largest employer by 2030. 

Islamic Lifestyle
Islamic lifestyle wrap: Brazil to boost halal tourism

Here's a roundup of key developments across the Islamic lifestyle ecosystem during the month of February 

Editor's note: Brazil is making top effort to build on its incumbent profile of a halal meat exporter, and draw inbound tourism to spur its economy. Meanwhile, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are keen to strengthen media cooperation, while World Hijab Day was celebrated with renewed vigor across more than 100 countries. 

Modest fashion trailblazers were celebrated with equal verve in Malaysia, which is also looking to tap into Europe's sizeable Muslim population to spur its tourism sector. 


Company News

Bitsmedia to focus on Muslim Pro app content localisation
Bitsmedia Pte Ltd, the developer of the Muslim lifestyle app Muslim Pro, is prioritizing content localization efforts this year to cater to the diverse needs of its Malaysian users.

Nafees Khundker, the company's MD, highlighted the initiative's focus on enhancing user experience in Malaysia by expanding its offering with Bahasa Malaysia subtitles.

This move aims to broaden the app's customer reach and better serve the Malaysian audience. (New Straits Times)

Elaf Al Dubai starts its journey in Bangladesh
Elaf Al Dubai, a modest fashion brand from Dubai, celebrated its debut in February with a lavish launch event at the Sheraton Hotel in Banani.

The brand, founded by Tanzila Elma and Ahmed Tuhin Reza, received accolades from esteemed guests, including Md Shamsul Haque Tuku, the deputy speaker of the parliament from Pabna-1 constituency, who attended as the chief guest. (The Business Standard)

Celebrating innovators at the Hijab Fashion Award 2024
Hotel One World in Petaling Jaya hosted the Hijab Fashion Award 2024 to celebrate creativity and empowerment in the realm of modest fashion in Malaysia.

The event transcended mere fashion to celebrate women's achievements and make a bold statement on the global fashion stage. (BNN Breaking)


Trade Developments

Saudi Arabia / Egypt
Egypt, Saudi Arabia forge ahead with media cooperation plans
Egypt's Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly and Saudi Media Minister Salman bin Yousef Al-Dossary met in Egypt's newly established capital to strengthen media cooperation between the two countries.

The gathering included prominent figures such as Saudi Ambassador to Egypt, Osama Nuqli, and CEO of the General Authority of Media Regulation, Dr. Abdullatif Al-Abdullatif. (BNN Breaking)

Pakistan to announce training, biometric verification schedule for Hajj pilgrims next week
Pakistan's Religious Affairs Minister Aneeq Ahmed met with Saudi Arabia's Ambassador Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki at the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad to discuss arrangements for the forthcoming Hajj pilgrimage.

Following the meeting, the minister announced plans to unveil a schedule for training and biometric verification of Hajj pilgrims next week. (Arab News)

Brazil looks to boost tourism from Muslim-majority countries
Brazil is venturing into halal tourism to attract more tourists from Muslim-majority nations, aiming to build on its status as the world's leading producer and exporter of halal meat.

With the industry generating $238 billion annually, Brazil sees an opportunity to tap into this lucrative market by catering to Muslim travellers.

This move underscores Brazil's efforts to diversify its tourism offerings and appeal to a broader range of visitors. (Middle East Monitor)

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia unveils Hajj media hub initiative
Saudi Arabia unveils plans for a Hajj media hub to streamline coverage of the upcoming pilgrimage season, as announced by Media Minister Salman Al Dosary.

The initiative aims to offer a centralized platform for both local and international media, providing comprehensive coverage of the annual congregation. (Muslim News Nigeria)

Malaysia / Europe
ITC to showcase Malaysia’s Muslim-friendly offerings in European cities
The Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) is spearheading Malaysia's tourism endeavors in the Muslim traveller market with a sales mission to Paris, France, and London, UK. 

The strategic initiative targets Europe's sizable Muslim population of approximately 25.7 million, leveraging collaborations with local travel agencies and Muslim community groups.  (Travel & Tour World)



Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia implements heavy fines for Hajj violations
Saudi Arabia has issued a firm warning against individuals intending to embark on the forthcoming Hajj pilgrimage without obtaining the requisite permits.

The authorities have outlined stringent penalties for those contravening Hajj regulations. According to the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, individuals undertaking Hajj without the mandated permits could face fines of up to 50,000 Saudi riyals. (BOL News)


ESG Developments

Bangladesh proposes new digital platform to counter Israeli disinformation on Palestine
Bangladesh's state minister for information has urged the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to establish a joint digital platform to counter Israel's dissemination of misinformation regarding Palestine.

This proposal comes as the OIC unveils fresh initiatives to expose Tel Aviv's atrocities. (Arab News)



United Kingdom
More than 150 countries celebrate 12th annual World Hijab Day
The World Hijab Day was observed in over 150 countries, with a focus on combating hijabophobia through heightened awareness and education about the traditional Muslim headscarf.

The flagship event, organized by the World Hijab Day organization in New York, included an online conference with speakers from 12 countries. (Arab News)



Muslim community leaders launch app to help people report Islamophobic incidents
Leaders within Muslim communities are optimistic about a new tool designed to address the underreporting of hate crimes.

The Islamophobia-Motivated Incident Reporting Tool (IMIRT) app, launched nationwide, aims to bridge the gap between unreported hate incidents and official statistics. (CBC News)

Islamic Lifestyle
Malaysia sends mission to beckon European Muslim travellers

Malaysia is exploring opportunities to tap into the burgeoning European Muslim population to propel its tourism industry. 

To leverage the European market's high demand for outbound travel, Malaysia's Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) organised a sales mission to two cities - Paris in France, and London in the UK - in February. 

ITC, which operates under Malaysia's ministry of tourism, arts and culture, said in a statement that it will connect with “local travel agents and Muslim community associations to share the best of Muslim-friendly Malaysia offerings.”

The services include Muslim-friendly tourism and hospitality assurance and recognition-approved services that also cover accommodations and Muslim-friendly tourist guides.

ITC will also connect with media and key influencers among Muslim communities in Paris and London.

An estimated 25.7 million Muslims reside across Europe.  

The centre, alongside Tourism Malaysia, will introduce Ramadan tour packages to the European market, where tourists can choose from a selection of programmes.

Nizran Noordin, ITC's director general, said that the sales mission follows the success of the China Imam familiarisation trip organised last January, where Imams from the East Asian country were introduced to Malaysia's culture, heritage and other attractions.

“We see the same opportunity in the European market that we want to tap into. In France, there is a Muslim population of 5.7 million, and in the UK, a study revealed that 68% of British Muslims are prioritising halal food availability and Muslim-friendly environments when they choose their travel destinations." 

From halal food to Muslim-friendly hotels, Malaysia offers a conducive ecosystem for Muslim travellers. In 2023, the country ranked first in the Mastercard-Crescentrating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2023 report. 

It also topped the Global Islamic Economy Indicator (GIEI) in the State of the Global Economy 2023/24 Report launched late last year. 

The GIEI is a composite weighted index that measures the development of a country’s Islamic economic sectors. It consists of 52 metrics across five components for each of the seven sectors of the Islamic economy.

These include Islamic finance, halal food, Muslim friendly travel, modest fashion, media and recreation, halal pharmaceuticals and halal cosmetics.

Islamic Lifestyle
Rising tide of sports tourism in Southeast Asia 

Sports tourism in Southeast Asia (SEA) has gathered pace in recent years, having beckoned an increasing number of tourists.

Sports tourism, which includes any and all types of active and/or passive touristic activities related to a sporting event, garnered an estimated $683 billion in revenues globally for 2023, Sapta Nirwandar, chairman of Indonesia Halal Life Center (IHLC), tells Salaam Gateway. Revenues are forecast to climb to $2.13 trillion by the end of the decade. 

“Within the SEA region, I think Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are ahead of other countries, including Indonesia,” he says.

National landscapes
Among Southeast Asian nations, Indonesia is looking to establish supporting infrastructure that enables it to play host to elite-level sporting events. Backed by support from multiple stakeholders such as NGOs and private sector entities, the country is looking to build on its current offerings and welcome a string of sporting events for enthusiastic travellers. 

The country has held several prominent sporting events recently, which include the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup; a motorcycle grand prix in the form of Mandalika MotoGP; as well as the U-17 FIFA Football World Cup in the fourth quarter of last year.

The Mandalika MotoGP event contributed around $292.8 million to the economy. Hotels and restaurants in the Indonesian island of Lombok, where the event was held, witnessed a 22.29% spike in accommodation, food, and beverage receipts, while the transportation sector, too, recorded a similar uptick in customers (15.36%) around the time of the event.

More non-global franchise events such as Borobudur Marathon, held in the Borobudur Temple area in Central Java, attracted around 10,456 participants last year. In addition to the race itself, participants enjoyed scenic views and sampled local culinary specialties, along with visits to the Borobudur Temple and its surrounding museums and art galleries.

However, there is visible room for growth. Alongside modern global franchises such as MotoGP and F1 Powerboat, Indonesia can adopt more local and traditional events that exploit its maritime landscape, such as sailing, swimming, fishing, and diving competitions, Nirwandar added. One such example is the Padang International Dragon Boat Festival. 

“Don’t forget that sports tourism also sells destinations. We need to be like other SEA countries such as Singapore and Malaysia in terms of [hosting] a number of international events as well as maintain consistency in quality as host countries. Commitment for continuity and holding events after events or series is a must,” Nirwandar adds.

But according to him, the key for business sustainability in sports tourism, is courage and entrepreneurship skills. Malaysia, for example, had the vision to start hosting F1 and later MotoGP, around 10 or 15 years ago. Meanwhile, Singapore also hosts a similar F1 event, with a night race concept and a street circuit around Marina Bay.

“I think the formula for success in sports tourism is courage, synergy and creativity. We have to have guts to create chances, as we called it entrepreneurship skill. Dare to start and then slowly improve the ecosystem such as collaborating with the private sector, international brand(s), as well as [offering] tax incentives, license, custom and immigration facilities, so we can finally be competitive as an international event host,” explains Nirwandar.

Callum Laing, an ambassador for International Deal Gateway (IDG) and an investor, harks back to Malaysia’s role in promoting sports tourism years ago, with the country having hosted the 1998 Commonwealth Games, followed by Formula One racing. Additionally, Malaysia has taken on the Southeast Asian Games and Thomas Cup Badminton Finals. Utilizing their natural geography, it also hosts the International Kinabalu Climbathon - dubbed as the world’s toughest mountain race.

“These and other sport events generate a direct and diverse flow of travellers, including fans, athletes, coaches, media, team personnel, parents and family members,” says Laing.
Wind surfers from all over the world congregate at Malaysia’s Balok Beach for the yearly International Monsoon Madness, while Pulau Duyung in Terengganu is one of the venues for the highly acclaimed International Monsoon Cup challenge.

Sports tourism in Malaysia is scattered across a range of options, from diving to golf. One of the country’s best kept secrets, to Malaysians themselves, are dive sites, scattered around the islands along the east and west coast of the peninsulas, Sabah and Sarawak. From the peninsular west coast islands of Payar and Sembilan, to the farthest east coast island of Sipadan, over 40 islands and at least twice as many individual dive sites lay, nestled in one of the world’s richest and biologically diverse marine habitats. The 200 golf courses scattered around Malaysia also help make it an attractive destination.

Thailand, meanwhile, has also hosted many successful events, including the PTT Thailand Tennis Open, the Sawadee.com Regatta Samui, the Liverpool versus Thailand football game and numerous Asian PGA golfing events. While there are some 40-50 events annually that attract more than 300 international participants, the government’s reticence to support private enterprise mean a select few have the opportunity to rise to international prominence.

One example is the Standard Chartered Bangkok Marathon. Whilst cities like Singapore, New York and London use their marathons as an opportunity to showcase their offerings to the world, the marathon in Bangkok attracts no more than a handful of international runners and is easily eclipsed by better, privately organized events like the Laguna Phuket Marathon. 

Thailand’s national sport is Muay Thai - traditional martial arts. Even before the success of mixed martial arts and the UFC, Thai kickboxing was growing in popularity in the West. “For those who want to get more involved, there are over 60,000 boxers in Thailand and several camps available for foreigners wanting to train. Many of the best fighters in the world consider training in Thailand a valuable rite of passage,” says Laing.

Promising outlook
Nuno Guerreiro, regional director for South Asia, Oceania & Chains at Booking.com, also sees sports tourism growing within the SEA region. 

One in five travellers (17%) across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is keen on sports and physical activities during travel, research commissioned by Booking.com revealed. The 2023 edition of the APAC Travel Confidence Index, which surveyed over 8,000 travellers from 11 countries and territories across APAC, revealed travellers were willing to book months in advance when planning to attend international or mega sports events to secure best deals and prices. In fact, foreign travellers in SEA tend to travel to the host country when their nation has an opportunity to win the competition.

“There are consumers that will plan ahead to get the best deal and prices. In fact, Singapore F1 spectators in our study are booking up to six months ahead. They later decide what activities to pursue while they travel in Singapore. In APAC, 73% of travellers are more optimistic to travel in the next 12 months,” adds Guerreiro.

Islamic Lifestyle
SGIE Report 2023/24: Media & recreation sector nets strong investment 

Muslim representation in mainstream media and content creation has shown a promising acceleration. 

From Islamic TV channels to edutainment initiatives, lifestyle to gaming apps, investment and attention has only continued to rise.

With digital technologies gathering pace and demand for Muslim-centric gaming and content rising, Muslim-themed media is expected to be quids in, in the years ahead. 

According to the State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2023/24, Muslim spend on media and recreation was valued at $247 billion in 2022 and is forecasted to reach $344 billion by 2027.

Investment and regulation have been two strong themes in this space. The GCC’s biggest economy has led by example, with government collaborations that aim to bolster the local and regional media ecosystem.

The launch of the Saudi Broadcasting Authority Training Academy, designed to develop a new generation of media professionals, and the $100 million Film Investment Fund, which aims to support local film and media at the Cannes Film Festival, hint at top-tier support and intent. 

Meanwhile, Islamic streaming witnessed a surge, with Malaysia’s Islamic video-streaming platform for children, Durio, raising $2.85 million. Singapore’s Bitsmedia unveiled a streaming service called Qalbox with content that highlights Muslim cultures and identities worldwide. 

Muslim-themed children’s content also saw an uptick in activity in 2022/23. Qatar Foundation launched a series of special episodes of Siraj, its 3D edutainment TV series, to teach children about Islamic values. Similarly, Islamic educational toys are gaining traction, as seen with Desidoll and Zain Bhikha Studio’s sleep-aide app and toy for Muslim kids.

Meanwhile, regulatory overhauls are spreading across Asia and the MENA region, with countries issuing new licensing requirements for social media and streaming services regulatory guidelines. Egypt is drafting a law that would require social media platforms to obtain a license to reach mobile users locally. The country is also planning to tax social media influencers earning above $32,000 a year.

In Saudi Arabia, individuals are now required to secure a license before posting advertising material on social media platforms. Indonesia, too, is planning for a new regulation that will permit media outlets to be compensated by digital platforms or aggregators displaying their material.

From an investment standpoint, a total of 21 deals related to media and recreation in OIC countries were recorded during 2022/2023, 14 of which were disclosed, totaling over $4.9 billion, up from $2.4 billion in 2020/2021. 

The report also outlines key signals for opportunities across the sector. These include an increasing openness to adopting digital technologies to augment traditional Islamic interactions; a West-to-East shift in sport and entertainment attention; as well as growing demand for Muslim-centric gaming and media content platforms.

Islamic Lifestyle
Islamic lifestyle wrap: Saudi Arabia to launch flying taxi service for pilgrims

Here's a roundup of key developments across the Islamic lifestyle ecosystem during the first two weeks of January

Editor's note: Saudi Arabia is making headlines, for terrestrial and celestial reasons. It is looking to launch flying taxis to transport pilgrims, as well as looking to facilitate services for them on ground. Looks like the kingdom is the place to be. 


Company News

Saudi Arabia
Saudia obtains license to provide Hajj services for pilgrims in Makkah, Medina, holy sites
Saudia Hajj and Umrah recently launched in the kingdom, marking a significant step in improving the pilgrimage experience.

The initiative aims to provide high-quality services to pilgrims, offering comprehensive packages covering flight bookings, accommodation, inter-city transportation, and visits to Islamic historical sites. (eTurbo News)

New website launched to facilitate Muslim travellers 
Otelislam.com, a newly launched online platform, caters to the unique requirements of Muslim travellers seeking conservative Islamic hotels globally.

The platform offers a curated selection of accommodations aligning with Islamic values, featuring essential amenities such as alcohol-free and pork-free halal food, designated prayer areas, and privacy considerations for conservative Muslim families. (News Direct)


Trade Developments

Pahang sets eyes on lucrative Muslim tourism market
Pahang aims to position itself as a vibrant Muslim-friendly destination by enhancing products and experiences for Muslim travellers globally.

The state is actively working on improvements across existing and upcoming tourist destinations to cater to the needs of Muslim visitors. (New Straits Times)


Operational Developments

Saudi Arabia
Entrepreneurs invited to shape future of Hajj and Umrah services
The third Hajj and Umrah Services Conference and Exhibition's second day centered on boosting pilgrimage services through small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurship.

The event, spanning four days, is organized by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in collaboration with the Pilgrim Experience Program, a part of Saudi Vision 2030. (Arab News)

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia to launch flying taxi for Hajj, Umrah
Saudi Arabia is gearing up to launch a flying taxi service to transport Hajj and Umrah pilgrims from King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah to Makkah. The flying taxis will facilitate the transportation of pilgrims from the airport to hotels in Makkah.

Trials for flying taxis were announced by Saudi Arabia's Minister of Transport, Saleh bin Nasser Al Jasser, last year with plans for operational deployment, though the specific timeline is yet to be confirmed. (Global Village Space)

Islamic Lifestyle
SGIE Report 2023/24: Modest fashion stands tall amid mainstream brands

The global fashion industry saw a good recovery after uncertainty driven by the Covid-19 pandemic, as did the modest fashion space, with the revival of old brands, addition of many new ones and continued interest from mainstream retailers.

According to the State of the Global Islamic Economy (SGIE) Report 2023/24, Muslim spend on apparel and footwear in 2022 was valued at $318 billion, hiking by 8.4% over the previous year. 

By 2027, Muslim spend on apparel and footwear is forecast to reach $428 billion, at a CAGR of 6.1%. Throughout 2022/23, established modest fashion brands continued to receive investment for further growth, while smaller-scale brands attracted attention at investor forums. 

All in all, a total of six deals related to the apparel and modest fashion industry were recorded in 2022/23, four of which were disclosed and valued at $129 million.

“The modest clothing market continues to grow with many new brands and products constantly emerging to address the needs of the modest clothing consumer. Mainstream brands have continued to expand their offerings in modest clothing,” says Aaliya Mia, modest fashion sector lead analyst at DinarStandard. 

“Indonesia has set their sight on becoming the global modest clothing capital and have already put in place multiple initiatives to achieve this. The growth prospective of the industry is good and investors have several areas with high return opportunities to capitalize on.” 

In a widespread effort to promote inclusivity, mainstream clothing retailers launched modest clothing ranges and edits. Another trend saw modest fashion brands partner with mainstream retailers to increase the reach of their products, though some chose to expand by themselves within their regions.

Several brands rolled out innovations to cater to the diverse needs of the modest fashion consumer, such as modest surf wear, clothing made with fabric that can absorb vitamin D-rich light, and the first-ever water and windproof hijab and niqab. 

In certain jurisdictions, such as the State of New York and the European Union, new rules were introduced to ensure corporate sustainability and ethical production brands. While legal rulings in some locations have precluded women from wearing hijab, social media users and celebrity influencers have been vocal about this discrimination and are helping to educate the public about Muslim women. 

As modest fashion steps further into the spotlight and gains more recognition in fashion schools, fashion events, and mainstream retail stores, this dynamic segment of the fashion industry is bound to continue expanding.

Meanwhile, the SGIE Report has identified several notable signals of opportunity, that will foster the growth of this space. These include social commerce emerging as a popular way for consumers to make fashion purchases; clothing resale and rentals turning out to be the most effective ways of making the fashion industry more sustainable; and the rising demand for specialized modest sportswear for women, among others. 

The State of the Global Islamic Economy Report, produced by DinarStandard, can be downloaded here

Islamic Lifestyle
SGIE Report 2023/24: Halal cosmetics surge in global beauty market

Halal cosmetics emerges as a dynamic sector within the global beauty market, driven by the growing demand for halal cosmetics.

As per the State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2023/24, the halal cosmetics industry is experiencing significant growth. Muslim consumer spending on cosmetics reached $84 billion in 2022, a 14.3% increase from $74 billion in 2021.

India and Indonesia remain the top two largest markets for Muslim consumer spending on cosmetics, while Türkiye has moved up to third position.

The market is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 8.9% from 2022 to 2027, reaching $129 billion by 2027.

With the increasing demand for halal beauty products, several halal beauty startups have secured funding from VCs to tap into maximum opportunities. 

Investment and trade drivers reveal substantial deals, with Social Bella in Indonesia leading the way and France topping exports to the OIC. The top five halal cosmetics consumer markets, led by India, Indonesia, Türkiye, Russia, and Egypt, demonstrate the global reach of the industry.

The report also highlights the emergence of the Skintellectual generation, driven by social media, particularly TikTok. This generation has rising knowledge and awareness of clean and authentic beauty and is open and eager to learn new concepts, including halal beauty. Some ingredients, such as retinol and niacinamide, gained popularity on social media due to their important functions for healthy skin.

In response to the demand for sustainable beauty products, brands are leveraging community engagement and co-creation for product development. Technological advancements, such as augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI), reshape customer interactions, offering immersive and personalized experiences.

Funding and M&A activities, particularly in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, underscore the industry's growth, with direct-to-consumer brands leading the way. Regulatory oversight increases, as seen in Singapore's mandatory packaging reporting and Pakistan's plans for a cosmetics authority.

National and trade developments reflect efforts to build sustainable global trade, with Korea actively expanding its network to capture a larger share of the Muslim cosmetics market. Initiatives in Morocco, Indonesia, and Malaysia aim to adopt more sustainable practices in response to EU regulations.

Overall, the halal cosmetics industry is a rapidly growing market with significant potential for growth and investment. With the increasing demand for halal and clean beauty products, there are ample opportunities for startups and established companies to tap into this market and cater to the needs of Muslim and ethical consumers.

The State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2023/24, produced by DinarStandard, can be downloaded here.

Islamic Lifestyle
SGIE Report 2023/24: Travel industry records strong comeback  

Investment in the travel industry spanning Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries grew at a promising pace over the past year. This was propelled by the expansion of tourism products, enhanced connectivity and strategic campaigns encouraging year-round travel. 

According to the State of the Global Islamic Economy (SGIE) Report 2023/24, Muslim spend on travel was valued at $133 billion in 2022, following an increase of 17% over the previous year. By 2027, it is forecast to reach $174 billion, at a CAGR of 5.5%.

In terms of investments, 13 deals related to the Muslim-friendly travel industry were recorded in 2022/23, nine of which were disclosed and valued at $3.4 billion. Most of them were pertinent to digital travel-related solutions, such as booking apps.

As the appetite for travel returns strongly, vast opportunities await Muslim-friendly tourism destinations, service providers, and hospitality businesses.

According to SGIE findings, sovereign wealth funds are ramping up tourism spending, with billions of dollars in the pipeline for new projects. As travellers gear up for their next adventures, hotel-development activity continues to boom in the MENA region, including in upcoming destinations.

On the other hand, there has been an upsurge of interest in blended spirituality, fitness, and wellness experiences among Muslim travellers. To meet the growing demand for personalized experiences, travel companies have been expanding their horizons and experimenting with artificial intelligence (AI) in travel booking.

Operationally, travel companies have started offering Shariah-compliant financing for hajj and umrah. Meanwhile, tourism ministries developed digital marketplaces to support the industry, and a telehealth service was introduced for Pakistani pilgrims. Simultaneously, destinations ran campaigns to encourage year-round travel, while tourism stakeholders collaborated on marketing efforts. Mainstream airlines are beginning to accommodate modest wear needs of female cabin crew as well. 

From a development standpoint, medical tourism initiatives are flourishing in Asia and the Middle East. Many OIC countries, especially in the GCC and Southeast Asia, are diving into sports tourism, while others have expanded their offerings with adventure products. At the same time, bilateral cooperation in transportation among OIC countries, along with relaxed visa rules, is expected to enhance travel connectivity. 

Ecosystem-wise, several new initiatives have been identified to develop the overall space. The Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC) released a standard for adventure tourism and is developing one for spas, while Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is accrediting accommodations for digital nomads in collaboration with a travel tech firm. GCC countries of Saudi Arabia and Oman have introduced new tourism laws to further regulate the industry. 

Lastly, the SGIE Report detailed several notable signals of opportunity set to shape the sector. These include health and wellness tourism experiencing notable growth; advancement of halal tourism standards beyond basic services; rise of bleisure and spiritual retreats; and Saudi Arabia’s rise as a premier tourism hotspot. 

The State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2023/24 produced by DinarStandard can be downloaded here 

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