The World Islamic Travel Summit (WITS15), the largest showcase of Halal travel & tourism solutions, is to debut in Abu Dhabi city, the capital of the United Arab Emirates next October.
The pioneering conference and exhibition will run over two halls at the state-of-the-art Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), from October 19-21, 2015.
The multi-faceted event will include 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.
Organised under the theme ‘Driving The Halal Tourism Revolution,’ the event will bring together an unprecedented array of international specialists, projects, suppliers and policy-makers.
“The Halal tourism market is booming with analysts saying it now represents 13% of the global market,” said WITS15 Events Manager Hosam Moustafa. “A recent Muslim travel report, released by the consultancy DinarStandard and rating agency Crescent Rating, projects that until at least 2020, Muslim international tourism will increase faster than conventional tourism – 4.79% versus 3.8%. At that point, overall annual spending for international Muslim tourism is expected to reach US $192 billion and these figures don’t even include estimated Hajj and Umrah expenditures.
“The time is right for an event of this size and scope to address the needs of this vast international sector and Abu Dhabi, with its award-winning ADNEC and event facilities in the heart of this market, is an ideal venue and host.”
WITS15 is being brought to the UAE capital by organiser Cacti Events with the support of Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau – the dedicated business events promotion arm of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).
“Many Muslim majority markets are now fast emerging economies, with higher than average population growth rates supported by a young demographic,” said Sultan Al Dhaheri, Acting Executive Director Tourism, TCA Abu Dhabi. “Against this background, expenditure by Halal tourists is expected to rise more than 6% per annum for the foreseeable future, which is almost double global industry growth.
“With Abu Dhabi now specifically targeting the Halal tourism sector with segment-specific accommodation and product, the staging of this event in the UAE capital will put the spotlight on our offering and ambitions.”
WITS15 is expected to draw high profile international attendance from government delegations, tourism associations, market-leading private sector operators and leading financiers funding Islamic tourism projects.
“WITS15 is a major opportunity for tourism bodies, private tourism companies and professionals interested in developing business models in the Halal Travel space – perhaps the single most important meeting of the decade for this sector,” added Moustafa.
“More than 60 countries will be represented at WITS15, with many exhibiting and others contributing presentations and speakers to the conference sessions.”
WITS15 will focus strongly on the intra tourism between the 57 members states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – the second largest inter-governmental organisation after the United Nations with a membership spread over four continents.
Keynote conference sessions will focus on practical applications to increase intra OIC tourism productivity – innovative technologies, capacity building and entrepreneurship, the role of the private sector and the way that local bodies can quickly adopt and adapt the best international thinking.
TCA Abu Dhabi has adopted a Halal Travel strategy which has seen it engage with some of the world’s largest segment operators including Serendipity of the UK and four Abu Dhabi hotels, namely the One-To-One The Village; the Ayla Hotel Al Ain, the Hala Arjaan by Rotana and Al Rawda Arjaan Hotel by Rotana in Abu Dhabi city are all now listed on www.halalbooking com. The authority believes Abu Dhabi’s traditions and product base will have great appeal with the Muslim traveller.
“We can meet specific Muslim demands on a number of fronts – halal f&b is one, another is specific segmented family product and specific product segmented for use by the different genders. We also have a number of high and medium quality alcohol-free hotels and segmented sessions for females at mainline attractions,” explained Al Dhaheri.
“Some of our operators are also realising the potential of the market – one example is Captain Tony’s dhow boat cruises, which offer ladies-only tours of the Corniche. Ladies only sessions are also available at our award-winning Yas Waterworld aqua park and on Wednesday nights at Yas Marina Circuit there is a whole evening of sports and activities training for ladies.
“Of course, a visit to our Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque would be an essential on any Halal tourism agenda. In addition, Abu Dhabi as a wealth of world-class restaurants and eateries where guests can enjoy international cuisine all prepared to halal standards.”
Al Dhaheri says Halal Travel will become more prominent in its destination promotion in terms of exposure and quality of product offering.
“We envisage receiving increasing numbers from this segment particularly given that Abu Dhabi serves as a hub for traffic transiting from East to West and vice versa. We can link the highly populous Muslim countries of the East to the West and those in the opposite direction via Abu Dhabi International Airport and we hope that many will choose to break their journey in the emirate and eventually become convinced to stay longer.
“We are now airing this topic with all our stakeholders and encouraging the creation of Halal packaging where appropriate. We will also be looking to encourage tour operators to offer segmented product.”