The global spending power of Muslims is expected to reach over $2 Trillion by 2020 and is giving rise to what is known as the ‘Islamic economy’. The Islamic economy covers various sectors where Muslims are searching for goods and services specifically catering to their lifestyle needs. Globally we are seeing high growth in all these areas, whether it is halal food, modest clothing, halal tourism or Islamic finance.
The UAE is positioning itself as a hub and a world leader for the Islamic Economy. In October 2016, Dubai hosted the Global Islamic Economy Summit and it has been at the forefront of other major islamic conferences and industry reports and research projects to come up with guidelines and policy frameworks to guide the growth in various sectors.
Practising Muslims follow a set of rules known collectively as Sharia. Within the Sharia there are guidelines as to how a muslim may invest money, dress, eat, and so on. For example, in the area of food and drink, it is commonly known that Muslims do not eat pork or drink alcohol, but there are also a set of guidelines for how animals should be slaughtered to be considered ‘halal’ (permissible). Practising Muslims will not only avoid eating pork and pork derivates (such as gelatine) but also avoid the use of non-halal animal derived ingredients when it comes to gluing agents, casings for vitamin capsules, animal products in make-up and toiletries etc. They would also avoid alcohol whether this was used in food or some may even go so far as to avoid it in perfumes and toiletries.
According to the State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2016/17, Malaysia is the number one Islamic economy. With a muslim-majority population of more than 31m, it should be no surprise that it tops the list. However, in second place with an ethnically diverse 9.2m population, the UAE places ahead of it’s larger neighbour Saudi Arabia and the further afield Pakistan. It is fair to assume that Dubai’s attractiveness as a regional tourism hotspot is a significant contributing factor.
In fact, ‘Halal Travel’ is a growth industry with (according to the report) an expectation of $243B in value by 2021. Airlines that don’t serve alcohol, hotels that don’t have nightclubs or bars and encourage modest beach attire, and family oriented destinations, are all able to take advantage.