Turkey launches first ‘halal cruise’

OnIslam & Newspapers

ISTANBUL – Catering to the growing global halal market, Turkey will launch its first Muslims-friendly cruise on the Aegean Sea next month for religiously observant travelers in the country.

“It will not be just a cruise which does not have alcohol or pork-related products. It will be a cultural and historical tour which promises an atmosphere of social networking,” Kemal Gunay, Fusion Tour general manager, told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday, August 5.

The country’s fist halal cruise was announced by the Antalya-based Fusion Tour company on Tuesday as a new approach that aims at tapping into the $145 Billion worth global halal tourism sector.

Themed “On the track of the Ottomans,” the first halal cruise will sail to Greece without alcohol, pork-related products and gambling on board.

Adhering to Islamic Shari`ah, the cruise will include segregated sports centers, single-sex spa facilities, separate Turkish baths and prayer rooms.

“We don’t even have a painting on a wall of the ship which is against Islamic values,” Gokmen Aydinalp, tour project manager, claims organizers have thought of everything.

“Although the tour has been just announced, interest is quite high right now because there is a huge demand for this concept.”

Inspired by kosher-friendly and Catholic cruises internationally, the Muslim-friendly cruise will sail from Turkey’s Izmir on September 27 to the Greek islands of Rhodes and Crete along with the port city of Piraeus by October 2.

Announcing the halal cruise comes as the Muslim country is poised to host second annual European international Halal Tourism Conference (HTC2015), next December at the Istanbul Lutfi Kirdar Congress & Exhibition Center (ICEC), in the heart of the Congress Valley.

Over 1,000 delegates from more than 50 countries are expected to attend the three-day event which is sponsored by CM Media in partnership with Tura Turizm.

Turkey fell second to Malaysia in the GMTI 2015 Muslim travel market while UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar rounded off the top five.


Describing it as a “much-awaited” concept, passengers who booked the halal journey expressed happiness over adopting the enterprising tourism approach.

“I believe it will be an atmosphere where I and my family will feel comfortable,” says 46-year-old Hamit Kutuk, a banker, who will be one of the passengers.

“To be able to eat halal foods, being together with people who share the same Islamic sensibilities with you and being away from alcohol on this kind of cruise are important for us,” he adds.

A similar enthusiasm was echoed by Serap Akali, 28, who will take the tour with her husband.

“There has been a big need for this kind of cruise in Turkey for many years,” Akali agreed.

Passengers will have the opportunity to explore the Ottoman heritage in the region through talks by popular Turkish historian Talha Ugurluer and author Fatih Citlak.

Besides featuring Sufi whirling dervishes, the cruise will have photo exhibitions, Turkish classical music and a workshop by prayer-bead artist.

The Muslim tourism market accounts for about 13% of the global travel market and estimated to worth $145 billion in 2014. It is expected to climb to $200 billion by 2020.

A recent study released by Singapore-based halal travel specialist Crescentrating and DinarStandard has expected influx of Muslim holidaymakers over the next decade.

The study, conducted in 47 countries, found that spending by Muslim tourists is growing faster than the global rate and is forecast to reach $192 billion a year by 2020, up from $126 billion in 2011.

Last March, two Muslim cities, Marrakech in Morocco and Istanbul in Turkey, have been named world’s best cities by a trip advisor, after gaining support of tourists worldwide.

Experts believe that adopting the new tourism trend was attributed to overall progression of Turkey’s travelling culture since 2000 coupled with the effect of the economy’s development.

“It is a result of a wish by Turkey to do tourism in accordance with its own values, instead of copying what the West has done so far,” Oya Akgonenc, a professor at the Political Science and International Relations Department of Ankara-based Ufuk University takes, stated.


Houston Airport System: Passenger Totals Continue to Grow in First Half of 2011

Passenger totals from the first six months of 2011 are continuing a positive growth trend recently recorded at airports within the Houston Airport System, especially in the areas of international travel and the amount of air cargo processed at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

From January through June of this year, international passenger totals have increased by more than 4 percent, while the air cargo totals are almost 7 percent higher than the totals recorded during the same time period in 2010, airport system officials said in a report.

“The Houston Airport System continues to improve its position as the premiere gateway into key markets in Mexico and the rest of Latin America,” says Mario C. Diaz, director of aviation. “Global connectivity remains a top priority and the recent increase in international passenger totals reflects that commitment.”

The Houston Airport System reports increases in international passenger totals for 22 consecutive months. The increases in traffic are especially strong for travel between Houston and Mexico and destinations in Central and South America. Six-month totals for those two regions have increased by 35.2 percent and 29.8 percent respectively.

Air cargo totals are also increasing at Bush Intercontinental Airport, where an additional 15,000 tons of air freight was processed from January through June. This total represents a seven percent increase in the totals recorded during that same time period the previous year.

Passenger totals continue to climb at William P. Hobby Airport as well, where an increase of 8.6 percent is being recorded for the first six months of the year. Compared to the same time period in 2010, Hobby Airport has seen an additional 375,761 passengers, putting it on pace to end the year by topping the 9 million passenger threshold for the second consecutive year and only the third time in its history.

“We are definitely entering a new era at William P. Hobby Airport,” said airport general manager Perry J. Miller. “Because the facility itself is changing and the passenger totals are growing, there’s a genuine excitement about what the future is going to hold for both the airport itself and its passengers.”


Umrah Packages Galore, as Ramadan Nears


masjid_al_haram-300x224RIYADH, Shaaban 18/July 19 (IINA)-With two weeks to go before the holy month of Ramadan, attractive weekend Umrah packages starting from SR100 are being offered by travel operators in the capital.

The beginning of the Umrah season on June 29 this year coincided with the summer holidays, triggering a large rush of people including Saudis to do the pilgrimage.

An official from Al-Rushd, a leading Hajj and Umrah travel operator in the city, said the Umrah season is to continue until two weeks after Ramadan.

He predicted that the current fee of SR100 per pilgrim will increase by 50 percent as Ramadan approaches and will be hiked even further during the latter part of the holy month. “Budget conscious families are currently taking advantage of this offer,” he said.

A return fare from Riyadh to Makkah by luxury coach including accommodation in the holy city will cost SR100 per pilgrim and the charges remain the same even if the pilgrim opts to visit the Prophet’s (s) Mosque in Madinah en route to Makkah.

For an additional payment of SR30 per pilgrim, accommodation can be upgraded to four-star hotels in the holy city.

The itinerary for the weekend package to Makkah and Madinah starts at 4 p.m. from Riyadh on Wednesday and finishes on Friday midnight.  Each family is given a large room while the bachelors are accommodated on a sharing basis with three pilgrims in one room. Children under 12 pay half the fare.

A five-day package to Makkah and Madinah including travel and accommodation will cost SR150 per pilgrim. The offer includes a two-day stay in a three-star hotel in Madinah and another two days in similar accommodation in Makkah.

The journey begins on Monday and ends on Friday. The pilgrims will leave the holy city of Makkah after Friday prayers so that they reach Riyadh around midnight. Pilgrims are given an option to stay in a five-star hotel for an additional premium.

There are more than 100 Umrah travel operators spread out across the capital, but most are concentrated in the city center of Batha.

During the journey, coaches stop for Maghreb, Isha and dinner and at the meeqat point in Taif to allow pilgrims to don ihrams. Pilgrims are given half an hour to put their ihrams on to ensure that they reach Makkah in time for Fajr.

A leading hotelier in Makkah told Arab News that the majority of the pilgrims are from all parts of the Kingdom and others have come from countries such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
“This year, there are less people from Arab countries such as Egypt and Morocco, possibly due to unrest in the region,” he noted. The occupancy rate in Makkah hotels has been recorded at 88 percent during weekdays and 100 percent during the weekends, he added.

The local hotels in cooperation with local tour operators have arranged city tours to historical sites for the benefit of those pilgrims who come to Madinah to visit the Prophet’s Mosque.

The places of interest include Quba Mosque, the first mosque built by the Holy Prophet (s) in Madinah; the Qiblatain Mosque where the Qibla was shifted from Baitul Muqaddas (Al-Aqsa Mosque) to the Holy Kaaba; and the graveyard on the foothills of Mount Uhud where soldiers who died in battle during the prophetic period were buried.