By Meaghan Tobin
China-born tour company owner Amina Liu was not planning to start a business when she and her husband left their home in New Jersey in 2014 for a holiday in China.
When one of her husband’s colleagues heard about the trip, he asked to join them. The colleague is a practising Muslim, as are the Lius, and he thought they would understand his concerns about things like keeping halal while on the road.
Faced with the daunting task of working out an itinerary, hotels, transport, and locating halal dining options in a language he did not speak, he offered to pay the Lius if they would take care of it all for him.
Liu arranged a 14-day trip to Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Yiwu, along the way eating halal meals with no pork, lard, or alcohol. When his cousins in Britain heard about the man’s trip, they contacted Liu to help plan one of their own, and their cousins in Germany and Malaysia did the same. Halal China Tours was born.
The company is tapping a booming market for Muslim travel. Mastercard estimates the global market is worth nearly US$200 billion and will grow to US$300 billion by 2030, making it one of the fastest-growing segments of the tourism industry. Nearly US$34 billion is already being spent in Asia alone.
By far the biggest spenders come from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with wealthy Gulf travellers spending more than US$40 billion globally last year. Indonesia comes third in expenditure by Muslim travellers, at US$7.5 billion and growing, with Malaysia spending about half that, followed by Singaporeans.
Outbound Muslim travellers from Asia, particularly from Malaysia and Indonesia, are set to spend more than those from Europe within the next two years.