(Istanbul-NewsHalal, Dhu-AlQa’dah 17, 1436, September 1, 2015) Turkey is offering unique ideas and services for Islamic tourism as Anatalya based company Fusion Tour introducing a Halal Cruise specially made for Muslim tourists.
According to Anadolu News Agency report, travellers joining the Halal ship when it sets sail at the end of September will find separated sports facilities, spas and Turkish baths for men and women. There will also be no alcohol, no gambling and no pork products on the voyage across the Aegean Sea. Everything on board will be in accordance with Islamic religious values.
Four nights sailing on the beautiful Aegean Sea is not a novel idea but a new ‘halal cruise’ unveiled this week is a tourism concept which is gaining ground.
”Halal Tourism” is one of the fastest-growing markets in Turkey. The number of Halal Hotels and tour agents has been increasing over the last 15 years.
However, there has not been a “Halal” sea cruise so far until Fusion Tour organized this special voyage, like a lucrative format which has seen kosher-friendly and Catholic cruises internationally. Turkey’s first Halal cruise – themed ‘On the track of the Ottomans’ – will leave a port in Turkey’s western Izmir province on September 27 and take passengers to the Greek islands of Rhodes and Crete as well as the port city of Piraeus by October 2.
“It will not be just a cruise which does not have alcohol or pork-related products. It will be a cultural and historical tour which promises an atmosphere of social networking,” Kemal Gunay, Fusion Tour general manager reportedly told Anadolu News Agency.
Gokmen Aydinalp, tour project manager, claims organizers have thought of everything: “We don’t even have a painting on a wall of the ship which is against Islamic values,” he says. “Although the tour has been just announced, interest is quite high right now because there is a huge demand for this concept,” Aydinalp adds.
Passengers who booked a spot on the cruise are glad to be part of what they describe as a “much-awaited” concept. “I believe it will be an atmosphere where I and my family will feel comfortable,” says 46-year-old Hamit Kutuk, a banker, who will be one of the passengers.
“To be able to eat halal foods, being together with people who share the same Islamic sensibilities with you and being away from alcohol on this kind of cruise are important for us,” he adds. Twenty-eight-year-old Serap Akali, who will take the tour with her husband, agrees: “There has been a big need for this kind of cruise in Turkey for many years.”
The cruise will feature Sufi whirling dervishes, photo exhibitions, Turkish classical music and a prayer-bead artist will have a workshop on board. Organizers have seen huge potential in a market of over 2 billion Muslims worldwide, and are planning to host varied tour packages to include the Adriatic Sea, Italy, Malta, Budapest, Belgrade and Vienna in the upcoming months.
Their target will not only be Turks but also Muslims globally. According to the Turkish Statistics Institute, around 3 million Arab tourists came to Turkey in 2014. This number was 2 million in 2013. There are over 50 hotels that offer conservative service, across the country. Antalya, Istanbul, Izmir, Aydin, Mugla and the capital Ankara are the major provinces which host such hotels, according to the Mediterranean Touristic Hotels Association (AKTOB).
“The number of these hotels was around 25 before 2007. Within five years, the number of this kind of hotel doubled,” says Erol Karabulut, AKTOB’s research and development supervisor. The Global Muslim Travel Index 2015 released by Mastercard and Singapore-based Crescent Rating estimated the size of the global halal tourism market at $145 billion in 2014. Their figure of 108 million Muslim travellers represents 10% of the whole travel economy. Rental villas have been another increasing trend in Turkey as they offer conservative people comfortable, but discreet, holidays.
“There has been a 70 percent increase in rental villa sales compared to four years ago,” says Mucella Tarhan, chairwoman of Home Tourism Committee of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB).
“As there are separate pools for men and women in hotels, couples cannot swim in the same place together. So, we offer them a comfortable atmosphere with pools, which are not seen from the outside,” Tarhan adds.