Abu Dhabi is poised to become the regional hub for the lucrative and growing halal travel sector delegates heard today at the opening of the first World Halal Travel Summit (WHTS2015), being staged in the UAE capital.
That is the strong message delivered by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) Acting Director General, HE Jasem Al Darmaki to senior private and public sector delegates from the global Halal travel and tourism industry at WHTS2015, which is taking place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) in Abu Dhabi, and runs until 21 October.
The keynote conference session is one of a number of seminars from industry-leading organisations, destinations and service providers delivering tourism products compliant with Muslim beliefs in a three-day programme investigating destination marketing, product development and quality standards in the halal travel sector.
Delivered with the support of Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau – the dedicated business events promotion arm of TCA Abu Dhabi, the multi-faceted event includes an exhibition with over 200 participants plus a 1,000-delegate conference, comprising keynote sessions, panel discussions, a Ministerial debate and 150 presentations from 70 international speakers.
They will be discussing what the industry can do to ensure it harnesses the potential of the growing halal travel sector, worth an estimated US $238bn by 2019, whilst maintaining and initiating industry-wide quality standards.
Addressing the Summit, at which key decision-makers from some of the world’s top halal travel suppliers are being hosted, TCA Abu Dhabi’s Acting Director General, HE Jasem Al Darmaki called on halal tour operators and the emirate’s tourism industry to embrace the opportunity.
“Halal travel is one of the fastest-growing sectors of global tourism and one that’s already worth $135 billion and is set to double within the next five years. Abu Dhabi is placing itself at the heart of this market in the gulf region, and is well placed to meet specific Muslim demands on a number of fronts including food and beverage, segmented family and gender-specific product and segmented sessions for females at mainline attractions, and is host to a number of high and medium-quality dry hotels,” said Al Darmaki.
The TCA Abu Dhabi Acting Director General said Abu Dhabi is already well on course to deliver international marketing initiatives with leading halal travel partners.
“We have already begun partnering with the world’s leading online accommodation booking platform and our local destination management companies are supporting international operators with halal products. Meanwhile, we are actively encouraging greater engagement with our expanding public and private sector tourism portfolio suppliers by encouraging investment in resources to support cultural, family-friendly and Muslim-compliant hotels, experiences and attractions.”
He predicted that the emirate’s deep-rooted heritage and traditions and upcoming cultural institutions on Saadiyat Island would further set the emirate apart.
“All of these, I’m sure, are featured, or will feature, in global halal travel packages,” added Al Darmaki.
The pioneering conference is supported by an exhibition running at the state-of-the-art ADNEC.
A total of 21 exhibitors will be joining a 225sqm Abu Dhabi destination pavilion as part of an extensive exhibition in ADNEC’s Halls 6 and 7, with an supplementary 219sqm traditional Heritage Village hosting 12 additional Abu Dhabi-based exhibitors.
The emirate’s entertainment destination of Yas Island is set to position its array of family-friendly activities, halal dining and regional shopping attributes at the summit.
“Yas Island offers unlimited adventure with non-stop fun, all in one destination,” said Clive Dwyer, the island’s Director of Destination Management. “In addition to a safe, family-friendly environment, the island hosts ladies nights at GoYas, where ladies seeking a healthier lifestyle can enjoy cycling, jogging, walking or exercise classes on the Yas Marina Circuit every Wednesday, and Yas Waterworld hosts exclusive ladies-only events on Thursday where ladies get the chance to enjoy park’s unique facilities in a comfortable environment,” he added.
Participating in the WHTS2015 is an opportunity for many of the emirate’s dry hotel chains to build market presence.
Ayla hotels, operators of two hotels in Al Ain’s heritage heartland, the capital’s Al Manzel’s family-friendly fully furnished hotel apartments and UAE-based Vision Hotels are all hoping to reach new suppliers, open new markets and explore opportunities in the halal sector. Each property boasts alcohol-free facilities, dedicated dining areas and has set aside allocated timings for exclusive ladies-only activities.
Al Ain’s Al Bada Resort – a luxury complex of 60 exquisitely appointed chalets – boasts a range of 100% halal-compliant facilities and is using their presence at the summit to promote their forthcoming Al Bada Spa, dedicated to female guests, with indoor temperature-controlled swimming pool with Jacuzzi, sauna and steam rooms.
Meanwhile, two city centre properties seek to reinforce their reputation with international travellers and visitors from GCC countries who enjoy the family atmosphere. According to Manu Madan, Group General Manager of the home-grown City Seasons group, the Summit “will cement its brand in the halal market” for its 5-star, Royal Rose Abu Dhabi property. The Majlis Grand Mercure Residence in the heart of the capital is predicting growth of 30% from the halal segment, targeting family visitors from the GCC and European markets.
Developing products to reach European and GCC Muslm traveller is a priority for Anantara Hotels & Resorts’ said Simona Dobre, Anantara Resorts’ Area Director of Sales at the summit. “We will be concentrating on highlighting the private secluded villas with private pools at our three properties on Sir Bani Yas Island and the Royal Pavilion Villas at the luxurious Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort & Spa in the heart of the Liwa Desert,” he added.
Other hotels participating include the official summit accommodation provider Jannah Hotels and Resorts, Southern Sun Abu Dhabi, Hyatt Capital Gate, Le Royal Meridien Hotel Abu Dhabi, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort, Ramada Abu Dhabi, Armed Forces Officers Club & Hotel, the recently revamped Millennium Corniche Hotel and the dry Rayhaan Rotana & Al Khalidiya Palace hotels. Emirates Palace – host venue for the inaugural 2015 World Halal Travel Awards being staged on the sidelines of the summit – will also be present.
And Abu Dhabi’s destination management companies are gearing up for a bumper future in the sector.
Desert Adventures has been the preferred partner TCA Abu Dhabi on Halal Holidays and family friendly packages since its official launch at ITB 2015, Germany’s leading travel exhibition, and will emphasise a dedicated product team to tailor-make all Halal packages at the summit.
“We offer tailor-made products and packages that cater for this specific segment of clients. Our participation at WHTS2015 will allow us to focus on its development and to provide support to international tour operators to feature Abu Dhabi during the exhibition,” said Virginie Michaud Desert Adventures’ Business Development Manager.
The emirate’s attraction will also be in the spotlight at the exhibition, with the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque leading a wide range of family activities in the capital and oasis city of Al Ain, including Al Ain Zoo which will be promoting an expanding range of developments which are due to open in 2016, Wadi Adventure which is using the summit to launch its new floating water park, Adventure Island and Al Ain’s much-loved family theme park Hili Fun City which will highlight its ‘classic and traditional family fun’.
Meanwhile, the inaugural World Halal Travel Awards, the first awards to solely represent the halal and family friendly travel and tourism industry, will take place in partnership with the World Halal Travel Summit & Exhibition. The World Halal Travel Awards 2015 will be hosted at a glittering gala dinner at the Emirates Palace Ballroom, Abu Dhabi on 20th October 2015. The independently voted winners of these prestigious awards will be announced throughout the gala evening.
The World Halal Travel Summit 2015 runs daily from 10am to 6pm at ADNEC until October 21.