How the Turkish city of Antalya is gearing up to welcome Muslim travellers
- 14 March 2019
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Turkey’s stunning and beautiful Turquoise Coast is truly a sight to behold. For those of you who have never been or are raring for a return visit, here’s some good news: many hoteliers in Antalya are preparing to roll out the welcome mat for their Muslim visitors.
Several hotels in the Turkish coastal city are being converted to attract Muslim travellers by including halal food in their menus and ensuring that the premises are alcohol-free. Meanwhile, a number of purpose-built resorts are coming up as well.
In fact, the makeover is evident already, thanks to an increasing number of Muslim tourists visiting the region. Hotels now provide prayer rooms, and prayer timings are announced over public address systems. There are segregated women-only swimming pools and beach areas, and spas and gyms have different timings for men and women. The organised entertainment is also “family friendly”.
Fashion blogger Basma Kahie initially had her doubts spending a family holiday at the Turquoise Coast, but after visiting a halal-friendly resort in Antalya last year with her husband and daughter, she is now planning another one with friends. “It was amazing not to have to worry about things that might compromise my religious beliefs,” she told The Observer.
According to reports, Antalya has seen an all-time high in the number of tourists arriving at the city via travel agencies in the first two months of the year.
"Absolutely there is a boom in this sector; we see it and feel it every day,” said Ufuk Seçgin of HalalBooking.com in an interview with The Guardian. “There is a growing Muslim middle class. The first generation [of immigrants to the UK] tended to work in low-skilled jobs, but in the second and third generations we see more doctors, lawyers, people working in finance and so on.”
He continued, “They want to take two or three holidays a year, not just an annual visit to their grandparents or relatives in their home country. They want to see the world—beach holidays, city breaks, and heritage sites—and they have money to spend.”
Antalya certainly seems to be shifting its focus away from Western tourists and towards those from the Gulf region. Turkish Airlines, for instance, is scheduling 41 direct flights to 13 countries from Antalya and plans to add more flights from Saudi Arabia, Lenbanon, and Azerbaijan.
“In the past, Antalya had a structure that attracted tourists from Western Europe in general. We think that high-income tourists from the Gulf countries and the Middle East can come to Antalya as well,” a senior official from Turkish Airlines said.
“There is a new generation of Muslims who are well-educated and professional with quite a lot of purchasing power. They see amazing destinations online, and they want to travel,” The Guardian quoted Soumaya Hamdi, who runs the online Halal Travel Guide as saying.
According to the figures announced by Recep Yavuz, General Manager at NBK Touristic and Chairman of the City Council Tourism Working Group the number of foreign visitors coming to the country’s holiday resorts, which is poised to welcome around 15 million tourists this year, via travel agencies and tour operators has increased by 41 per cent to 193,000 in January and February.
According to the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the city hosted 12.4 million foreign visitors in 2018, and the number of tourists arriving through Antalya Airport in the first two months of 2019 increased by 52 percent to 292,000.
(Edited by Seban Scaria firstname.lastname@example.org)
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