The World Halal Travel Summit & Exhibition (WHTS15), supported by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, opened today in Abu Dhabi. Laurent A. Voivenel, CEO of HMH – Hospitality Management Holdings said, “Halal tourism market holds enormous potential for hotel investors and developers. Given the business opportunity and demand Halal-friendly hotels will continue to claim bigger market share globally. By 2030, Muslims will make up more than a quarter of the global population rising from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion and 30 per cent of this population will seek Halal options”.

As a travel segment, Halal Tourism equals roughly 10% of the entire travel economy and last year was calculated to be worth $145 billion representing over 108 million Muslim travellers. The segment is forecast to continue to grow to an amazing 150 million visitors by 2020 and will be worth over $200 billion globally.

HMH spotted the opportunity early in the MENA region rolling out the concept in 2003. Laurent said, “At HMH we have taken a ‘Halal-friendly’ and not ‘Halal-only’ approach. Our strategy has been to position ourselves as a perfect choice for both regional and international corporate and leisure travellers including families and single female guests seeking safe and healthy environment. Let’s not forget, not everybody is seeking ‘Halal Hotels’. The world is shrinking with greater connectivity as well as low cost carriers opening new markets bringing in more diverse mix of travellers. Therefore, the way forward is not ‘Halal-Only’ rather it is ‘Halal-Friendly’ and that is what we are all about.”

According to Laurent dry hotels are equally popular with Western or non-Muslim travellers. He said, “On average over 60 per cent of our clientele are non-Muslims. Our typical customers are savvy travellers (both leisure and corporate) looking for value for money – basically, smart accommodation at the right price. Equally essential for them is a safe environment.

Laurent stressed, “A dry hotel can yield the same GOP as the one with alcohol provided the facilities are defined right.  After food and beverage, the largest money maker in a hotel is banqueting. So whenever HMH is involved in planning and development of hotel, we advise owners to allocate maximum space to meeting and banquet facilities instead of too many food and beverage outlets as that could generate superb revenue”.