China’s growing Muslim population has been identified as a high potential source market for Islamic destinations. This increasingly influential group of travellers is already driving a surge in family and religious focused trips according to an Oxford Economics report The future of Chinese Travel- the Global travel Market states around 1.85% of China’s total population was Muslim in 2010, representing a 38.4% increase on the previous 20 years.
“The rapid expansion of China’s Muslim population has resulted in inflated demand for travel from China to centres of the Islamic faith, “said the report.
By 2030, China’s Muslim community is expected to represent 2.1% of the Republic’s total population- that is 27 million potential Muslim travellers points out Pascal Gauvin, CEO, India, Middle east and Africa, Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), “this increased will drive demand for travel to the primary Islamic city centres in the region and Medina and Mecca ,for instance are already amongst the destinations with the longest length stay for Chinese tourist,” he said.
To cater to the increasing demand for accommodation in the country, we have eight hotels (over 2,600 rooms) in our development pipeline in Saudi Arabia, which will open over the next three to five years, including Holiday inn Makkah – the largest holiday Inn in the world with 1,238 rooms.”
The report predicted ongoing growth in Chinese arrival sand guest nights to Middle East cities. Abu Dhabi and Dubai would eventually be expected to overtake those major destinations such as London and Paris in Europe, and Sydney in Asia Pacific. Travel from China to Mecca and Medina is anticipated to rise by 50% by 2023, the study noted.
David Goodger, Director Europe and Middle East, Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company that conducted the research, noted the high value of Chinese Muslim travel to Islamic countries.
“Religious visits tend to last longer than other leisure trips,” he said.” For instance, a trip to the Islamic centres of the Middle East might incorporate sightseeing and participation in religious observations or events that can last for several days, as opposed to sporting or entertainment events which might take place on a single day.”
China is becoming the largest source market for international travel in general with 67.5 million trips taken by Chinese travellers in 2014. Annual Chinese arrivals are expected to hit the 97 million mark by 2023, following a growth trajectory of 5.1% per annum over the next decade.
This article first appeared in Halal Travel magazine