One might wonder who are these Arab travelers and what are they looking for. Like any other travel market – Chinese, Indian, US, European – the Arab travelers pertain certain travel requirements while resorting to basic travel needs like any other. One might also wonder, especially hoteliers and industry practitioners, targeting such a sensitive market would hinder an existing ecosystem that Maldives currently maintain. There could be million other questions that industry expert wonder when targeting dynamic travel markets.
Leaving aside the jaw-dropping prestige and beauty of Maldives islands, there is historical and cultural tourism hidden inside; this could be one aspect to target Arab travelers. Maldives is a country buried in a number of historical events significant to the interests of Arab travelers. The stories pertaining to Buddhism, the rise and fall of kings and sultans and the religious debris of the 1300s scattered across Maldives.
Future of tourism depicts on storytelling. Renowned gurus and pundits of tourism agreed to this premise, for instance, CEO, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), Dr. Mario Hardy; Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Mr.Xu Jing; renowned Motivational Speaker, Mr. Paul McNeive; Editor-in-Chief, National Geographic Travel, Mr. George Stone; and, Editorial Director, Creative + Content Marketing at Marriott International, Mr. Marc Grazer. Storytelling is the art of making an emotional connection between customer and product. Although this remarkable activity can have a consequential impact, the playing field and techniques keep changing.
Coming back to the initial premise, targeting the Arab travelers, Maldives can gauge some lessons from Malaysia – a country dominant for attracting Arab travelers. Initially establishing a government agency back in 2009, Islamic Tourism Center is an integral part of the Malaysia tourism. The influx of Arab travelers has significantly transformed parts of Kuala Lumpur. The main strip on Bukit Bintang street offers almost entirely Arab and Middle Eastern food; and there are designer fashion boutiques, luxury hotels and the Pavilion Mall, where families from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and many other countries spend hours shopping. Tourism is vital to most South-East Asian countries. In Malaysia more than 10% of the population work in the sector. But while other regional capitals draw their fair share of hard-drinking party goers, Bukit Bintang street attracts couples smoking shisha and drinking tea.
Likewise, Maldives has plenty to offer in this existing ecosystem. Most importantly, Arab travelers feel ease on their travel if its a Muslim country, and Maldives is a 100% Muslim country. Almost all the resort provides direction of Qibla (prayer direction), private pools, private villas, halal food, Muslim staff, special buffets on Ramadan and the likes. Maldives is one of the safest places on earth for travelers traveling with family and kids. One-resort-one concept denies any outsiders entering the property and requires prior reservation. Children are free to wander, play outside of their room/villa or the entire island, and parents need not worry overlooking their children. This is a special marketing piece that is valuable to Arab travelers.
Maldives resorts offering Shisha (Hookah)
Most recent establishments include Shisha (Hookah) lounges promoting the Arab ambiance. For instance, Ottoman lounge in Ayada Maldives, Al Barakat’s Shisha Bar at Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, Hookah Bar at the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, M-Lounge on the beach at Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa, and also Hookah near the beach concept at Kanuhura Maldives Resort. Hammam (Turkish Bath) might be new to Maldives but it is an is the Islamic variant of the Roman bath, steam bath, sauna, or Russian banya, distinguished by a focus on water, as distinct from ambient steam. The difference between the Islamic hammam and the Victorian Turkish bath is the air.
AySpa Hammam at Ayada
Based on the State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2015 by Thomson Reuters (published in collaboration with Dinar Standard), the global Muslim travel expenditure, excluding hajj and umrah, is estimated to be worth US$142 billion in 2014 or 11% of the total global travel expenditure. Comparatively, this is a 6.3% increase from the previous year and is expected to grow to US$233 billion by the year 2020. Muslim travel consumer is already among the largest market in the world with only China (US$160 billion) and the United States (US$143 billion) ranking higher.
Muslim tourists in Istanbul. Photo: ansamed
Additionally, Muslim travelers from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are among the most sought after in the Muslim-friendly travel market. Despite accounting for only 3% of the world Muslim population, the Gulf travelers from these countries represent 37% or US$52.3 billion of the overall Muslim tourism expenditure in 2014. Countries such as Saudi Arabia (US$17.8 billion); United Arab Emirates ($12.6 billion); Kuwait (US$9.7 billion) and Qatar (US$9.5 billion) are the top sources for global Muslim tourism spending, followed by Indonesia (US$7.6 billion) and Iran (US$7.5 billion).
In addition, Maldives is in close proximity that houses the biggest airlines in the world and offering the higest connection to global cities – UAE (Dubai) and Qattar (Doha). Direct flights from both cities to Maldives enables further movement of Arab travelers. Although the latter currently undergoing a political dilemma, both cities act as a hub to Maldives that connects other cities in the GCC region. The only hurdle at this juncture is the promotion and marketing of Maldives to the Middle-East.
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Source URL: Corporate Maldives