Dubai – MENA Herald: Total spending on family tourism in the UAE is projected to increase by 4.4%, according to a study conducted by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Meanwhile, the outbound family travel expenditure of Emirati citizens is set to rise at 3.6% this year.

The study coincides with the 3rd Global Islamic Economy Summit, which, bearing the theme “Inspiring Change”, will be held in Dubai on October 11 and 12, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and tackles family tourism as one of a spectrum of subjects under the Islamic economy label. The UAE is considered both a top origin and top destination country for family tourism – an umbrella term used to refer to the body of Shariah-compliant, halal travel offerings.

The Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) for 2016 ranked Malaysia first in the world in terms of Muslim travel friendliness. Meanwhile, the UAE moved up one spot to 2nd place, effectively replacing Turkey. Singapore kept its lead among Non-OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) nations, while Hong Kong managed to climb to 5th position this year, after it was ranked 7th in 2015. The countries are rated based on a set of criteria, including: the country’s suitability for family holidays, the type of available Muslim-traveller-friendly services and facilities, and guides and other marketing initiatives dedicated to spreading awareness regarding Muslim travel services and facilities.

In tandem, Industry experts expect GCC families who seek cultural experience and Muslim-friendly facilities to increasingly target the UAE, Morocco, and Asian destinations such as Malaysia, Indonesia, India and the Philippines in 2016, while visits to Turkey are expected to drop, dragged down by the recent instability.

Furthermore, Singapore-based halal travel specialists CrescentRating predicted spending in the global Muslim travel segment to hit $200 billion by 2020, driven by the growth in the number of Muslim travellers from the current 117 million (11% of total global tourism) to an estimated 168 million travellers worldwide by 2020.

The Chamber’s study identified four key factors driving this growth in family travel, ranging from the above-average population growth in predominantly Muslim countries, and the healthy economic performance of Muslim communities, to the increasing access to travel information, and increasing availability of Muslim-friendly travel services and facilities. What is more, the study reveals that five countries in the Middle East – namely, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Iran, and Qatar – stand behind 40% of total Muslim expenditure on travel, while Southeast Asia leads by number of Muslim travellers by virtue of its populous countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

Furthermore, the study predicts new trends to emerge in 2016 with the potential to reshape local tourism. One such trend is the drive towards developing cruise tourism, whereby the emerging segment is expected to grow by 30% in the 2016-2017 season, as the emirate prepares to welcome 155 cruise vessels, carrying 650,000 visitors. This momentum creates new opportunities for Dubai-based family travel or Muslim travel agents, who could tailor destinations to suit the needs of Muslim travellers.

The halal travel market is set apart from its counterparts by a number of hallmarks that cater to the specific requirements that suit the Muslim traveller’s lifestyle, including: Halal meal options, and halal-certified restaurants; family-friendly environments; facilities to perform prayer requirements (mosques, prayer rooms at airports, Makkah direction signs, etc.); gender segregation in select facilities (separate spas, gyms, and pools); tours and activities free of gambling, drinking, and similar activities; alcohol- and pork-free flights; Qur’an copies made available on request; prayer time announcement during flights; broadcast of religious programs on board flights; etc.

The Global Islamic Economy Summit 2016 is organised by Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre and Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with Thomson Reuters as a strategic partner. The summit welcomes decision makers and business leaders from all around the world to discuss pressing issues that pertain to the seven pillars of the Islamic economy: finance, halal industries, family tourism, digital infrastructure, Islamic arts, knowledge, and standards. This year’s edition focuses on corporate social responsibility within the Islamic economy and pinpoints the potential contributions that the Islamic economy can make to improve people’s lives and achieve sustainable development.