Cape Town, Western Cape to enhance multi-billion halal tourism sector

Wesgro CEO Tim Harris speaks at the Cap40 event. (Supplied)

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Muslim tourists are likely to wield some of the biggest spending power within the next 15 years, says Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille.

And as a result, Cape Town and the Western Cape plan to reposition as specialist tourist destinations for Islamic followers.

De Lille was speaking at the inaugural Africa Halal Week at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Monday, where she highlighted the role halal tourism could play in terms of Cape Town and the Western Cape. The event was hosted by the Western Cape Investment and Trade Promotion Agency (Wesgro).

The summit seeks to explore tourism opportunities to offer a holistic tourism experience for Muslim tourists as, based on tourist figures, opportunities for loyal tourism markets from the Middle East abound for the Western Cape.

According to Wesgro, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have between three and 14 flights to Cape Town per week.

Tourism is one of the few sectors that has had meaningful growth in South Africa’s limping economy.

READ: Cape Town tops among sub-Saharan financial centres

In 2017, a total of 81 834 tourists travelled from the UAE to Cape Town. Turkey had 9 620 tourists and Doha 8 542.

While halal is commonly understood to refer to meat and food products prescribed by Islamic law, delegates at the summit said this has been and could be applied to other aspects of the tourism experience when attracting Muslim tourists.

Halal is an Arabic word that means permissible. 

Ultimately, the province and the city expect to become a tourism destination of note for Muslims, not only in the food services sector, but in pharmaceuticals, clothing retail, entertainment and investment.

De Lille said the city would work decisively to draw Muslim tourists.

“Cape Town has a rich Muslim history, with Muslims making up a quarter of the population of the city. It is also home to the oldest mosque in the country, dating back 200 years. When we lobbied for a direct air travel line between Istanbul and Cape Town, this is what we were looking to. Halal services constitute one of the fastest growing sub-sectors in tourism globally,” said De Lille.

READ: Entrepreneurs flock to Cape Town, Africa’s start-up capital

De Lille said it had been projected that up $220bn would be directed towards Muslim tourism in the next two years globally, and that Cape Town was poised to rise to the occasion.

“It is not just about identifying potential sectors but protecting existing business sectors. Cape Town Tourism is investigating what more can be done to achieve this. More than 80% of respondents in a survey we have commissioned said halal food options were important in their tourist experience,” De Lille said.

During his keynote address, Western Cape MEC for Economic Development and Tourism Alan Winde said his department had prioritised this initiative, as it would help in creating an economic ecosystem that would generate jobs.

“This is not just about food. It is about a halal lifestyle … it is about encompassing all of the elements of this economic ecosystem including tours, fashion, film and entertainment,” said Winde.

Sheikh Ahmed Sedick, on behalf of all of South Africa’s Halal certification bodies, said, “The majority of South African Muslims are in the Western Cape.”

Wesgro CEO Tim Harris said Muslim millennial tourists presented a $100bn opportunity over the next 15 years.

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