Travel trends did change after 9/11. Travelers from the Middle East diverted their focus to Indonesia and Malaysia and away from both Europe and the United States due to the immediate aftermath of the rising anti-Muslim sentiments in the West. Ten years on, these xenophobic sentiments still persist. The world’s headlines still talk about “Minarets banned in Switzerland,” “Belgium bans Muslim veil,” “French Senate votes to ban Islamic face veil,” etc. Even the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, wants “Muslim immigrants to learn German and adopt Christian values.” But has this stopped visitors from going to Europe?
We looked at the six months of statistics we have generated on Irhal.com from April to October 2010 and can safely say that the Middle East traveler is not focusing on Islamic travel destinations – yet! Travel decisions are affected by what is on offer. Yes, providing halal food and prayer facilities help and they certainly were responsible for making Zurich and Geneva popular destinations during Ramadan, but it is the whole mix of what is on offer and how successfully it is marketed that influences the Middle East traveler.
Of the top 25 most popular destinations on the Arabic section of irhal.com, only 11 cities were from Muslim countries. On the English language site, only 5 cities were from Muslim countries.
Here are the top 25 most popular destinations during April-October 2010 on the English section of Irhal.com:
|1 – Chicago||10 – Barcelona||19 – Doha|
|2 – Montreal||11 – Mexico City||20 – Hong Kong|
|3 – New Delhi||12 – Nairobi||21 – Sao Paulo|
|4 – Johannesburg||13 – Colombo||22 – Istanbul|
|5 – Frankfurt||14 – Vienna||23 – Athens|
|6 – London||15 – Muscat||24 – Paris|
|7 – Dubai||16 – Geneva||25 – Ho Chi Minh City|
|8 – Dublin||17 – Bangkok|
|9 – Almaty||18 – Munich|
This analysis is based on the behavior of more than 278,000 unique visitors who visited irhal.com and irhal.com/ar during April-October 2010. 23% of the visitors came from Saudi Arabia, 21% from the UAE and the rest from other Middle East and North African countries. About 12% came from outside the MENA region.