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9 Jun, 2014

The role of Islamic tourism in the global economy

by Mrs Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, Minister of Tourism & Culture, Republic of The Gambia

Following is the full text of the speech delivered by Mrs. Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, Minister of Tourism & Culture, Republic of The Gambia and Chairperson of the OIC Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers, at the 1st OIC International Forum on Islamic Tourism, 2-3 June 2014, Jakarta, Indonesia

Asalamu Alaikum Warahmatulahi Wabarakatuhu

Madame Chairperson, first of all I bring you greetings from the government and people of The Gambia. In the same vein, I wish to take this opportunity to convey my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Indonesian Authorities for the warm welcome and fraternal hospitality extended to me and my delegation since our arrival in your beautiful country. We are feeling home away from home.

Honourable panelists, distinguished invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, I feel deeply honoured to be given the opportunity to address this august gathering on a subject which is not only extremely important for the Islamic Ummah, but one which is also full of tremendous potentials, which if properly harnessed and developed, will not only benefit our countries and people, but humanity at large.

Madame chairman, in addressing the subject of “The future of the Islamic world, and the role of the Islamic economy sector in the global economy,” I wish to begin by giving a contextual grounding of the very key words ISLAM and TOURISM. Indeed for a proper understanding of the essence of my paper, I believe these two words must be adequately defined and placed in their right perspective.

Tourism is defined in the dictionary as “The travel for recreational, leisure, family or business purpose, usually of a limited duration”. In the popular mind, tourism gives the impression of foreign travel that is crossing of national borders but the phenomenon could also be about people travelling within their states for recreation. It is dear from all indications that tourism today is one of the fastest growing service oriented industries in the Muslim ummah, accounting for a sizeable chunk of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employment status of our countries. In 2012, the world tourism figures clocked the 1 billion mark for the first time, a sign of the seemingly inexorable rise and growth of the industry.

The industry is however very diverse. There are countless types of tourism visitations ranging from health tourism, ecotourism, heritage tourism, cultural tourism and for the sake of this discussion, Islamic tourism. But it is important to note that this is really unity in diversity because these myriad types of tourism attractions named above share much commonality and all of them indeed involve the movement of people across national borders or within state borders for leisure, recreation or spiritual fulfilment or upliftment.

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Islam is undoubtedly one of the most uplifting spiritual heritage of humankind. It is a way of life. A religion of submission and prayers to Allah. Islam has over a billion and a half adherents, spread over 200 countries and territories, but concentrated in the 57 member states of the OIC. As a religion, Islam encourages and indeed permits travel to seek experience, knowledge and worship.

This is why Tourism is in many ways compatible with Islam. Islamic tourism can thus be seen as the outward and or inward travel by Muslims to places within the Islamic sphere of influences to experience Islamic culture and heritage. It should be underscored that part of this experience could be, but not limited to the spiritual journeys such as the Hajj to the Islamic Holy sites.

Madam Chairperson, having briefly put the key words on the theme in perspective, permit me now to come to the crux of the discussion.

I wish to point out some very revealing facts. According to two knowledgeable scholars on this subject of Islamic Tourism, Jafari and Noel Scott, it is estimated that in 2010, there were 1.6 billion people who identify themselves as Muslims, representing 23.2% of an estimated 2010 population of 6.9 billion (or one out of every five person in the world). More than 61% of Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region and about 20% in the Middle East and North Africa. In 2010, five of the 10 countries with the largest Muslim populations were in Asia: Indonesia (209 million), India (176 million), Pakistan (167 million), Bangladesh (133 million), and Iran (74 million).

Of the remaining five, three were in North Africa (Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco), one in Europe (Turkey), and one in Sub-Saharan Africa (Nigeria). Russia, China, and the United States also have sizable Muslim populations. The world’s Muslim population is projected to grow by about 35% between 2010 and 2030 to 2.2 billion. A recent study by a leading American company which follows Muslim lifestyle closely has estimated that the size of Islamic Tourism is worth $137 billion.

Furthermore, two Muslim countries, Turkey and Malaysia, are among the world’s top ten tourism destinations. In 2012, Turkey received 35 million tourists while Malaysia received 25 million. These figures indeed indicate a very significant tourism market which poses almost limitless prospects for development and growth.

Having given you a brief overview of the composition of the Islamic Ummah, I wish to remind my distinguished audience of the very rich and accomplished past of the Islamic Ummah. Many distinguished Scholars have agreed that there was a time when Muslims were the Masters of the earth, and virtually provided leadership in many fields of human endeavour.

For example, Muslims translated most of the scientific works of antiquity into Arabic; it was also Muslim mathematicians who devised and developed Algebra, and the current numerals system; furthermore, Muslims built the first observatory as a scientific institution in the 13th century and Muslim scientists had since the 14th century explained the blood circulation system of Man.

In politics and governance, Muslims had their own social, economic, judicial and political system that was established by the Noble Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) and the system was further advanced by his rightly guided successors. This type of government was established according to the commandments of the Holy Quran, with Allah being the supreme and sovereign ruler of the State. Indeed, under Islamic government when people obey this system, they do not obey any person; they only obey the Quran, the words of Allah, The Lord of The Alamin.

The Power in Numbers

In a nutshell, the future of the Islamic Ummah looks bright and hopeful. There is the human capital of 1.6 billion Muslims which should be an asset for human and societal development. The Muslim world therefore has got the human capital that it needs to overcome all its challenges, be they economic, social or political.

By the year 2030, Muslims will make up more than a quarter of the global population. There is a huge power in these numbers in terms of market, agriculture, tourism and other forms of economic potentials. If this huge human resource is harnessed and tapped adequately and properly, the fate of the Islamic world would indeed be safe and sound, and our societies will become leading examples to be emulated and the beacon of hope for mankind.

The Power in Unity

The Islamic ummah share some extremely strong bonds which could weld it into a solid united block, united and able to stake its rights in the comity of nations. This bond is the religion we share, and our adherence to the teachings of the Holy Quran, respect and obedience to the teachings of the Holy prophet peace and blessings be upon him. When we highlight our similarities, rather than be fixed on our differences, the Ummah will become even more united and therefore more powerful and respected by the rest of the World.

Islamic economic power

Madame Chairperson, from business perspective, the Islamic Economy naturally encompasses all those sectors driven by the Muslim population of 1.6 billion. The Islamic Economy sectors have great potentials and the opportunities for growth and investments are larger and could even be a necessity in realizing the real potentials of each sector.

In the State of The Global Islamic Economy report 2013, developed by Thomson Reuters in collaboration with Dinar Standard, it is reported that in aggregate, the global expenditure of Muslim consumers on food and lifestyle sectors is estimated to be $1.62 trillion in 2012 and is expected to reach $2.47 trillion by 2018. These figures form the potential core markets for halal food and lifestyle sectors.

In addition, Islamic financial assets are currently estimated to be $1.35 trillion in total disclosed assets (2012) and growing at 15-20% a year in most core markets. The same report estimated the potential universe of Islamic banking assets its core markets to be $4.1 trillion. Key estimates of global Muslim population expenditure on sectors most affected by religious drivers (besides finance) are:

Food Market – Muslims consumers spent US$1,088 billion in food and non-alcoholic beverage in 2012, which is 16.6% of global expenditure;

Clothing & fashion market – Muslim consumers globally spent US$224 billion on clothing and footwear consumption in 2012, which is 10.6% of global expenditure.

Travel Market – Muslim consumers globally spent $137 billion on travel in 2012 (not including Hajj/Umrah), which is 12.5% of global expenditure. This expenditure is expected to grow to $181 billion by 2018. Regionally, tourists from GCC countries (in order of size: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain) are largest in terms of expenditure, representing 31% of total Muslim travel expenditure, even though the population of these countries only represent 3% of the global Muslim population. As a comparison, the collective Global Muslim tourism market is larger than the largest tourism market of the United States of America.

Distinguished guests, this conference is timely as there are untapped potentials in the Muslim travel market.

Media and Recreation Market – Muslim consumers globally spent $151 billion on recreation and cultural services in 2012 which is 4.6% of global expenditure.

Pharmaceuticals market – Muslim consumers globally spent $70 billion on pharmaceuticals consumption in 2012. This represents 6.6% of global expenditure.

Cosmetics and Personal Care Market – Muslim consumers globally spent $26 billion on cosmetics consumption in 2012, which represents 5.7% of global expenditure.

All the sectors are expected to grow and the main growth engine of the Islamic Economy is its large, young fast-growing demographic.

Economically Muslims, belong to many of the world’s emerging markets, including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Turkey. Tying these two drivers of demographic and Economics that are shaping the Islamic Economy sectors is the Islamic ethos values that are increasingly driving lifestyle and business practices. The final driver of the Islamic market is the growing Intra OIC-trade. In 2005, the OIC had set a target of 20% intra OlC-trade by 2015. There is no doubt in our minds that the set objective is achievable.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Global environmental-based drivers are being led by the participation of global multinationals in the Islamic Economy.

The second driver is developed economies seeking growth markets. Then there is the growing global focus on business ethics and social responsibility that is in line with ethical base of Islamic Economy.

The final major driver that is facilitating Islamic Economy sectors (especially lifestyle sectors) is the global communication technology. Together, these key drivers are shaping the growth of the Islamic Economic Sectors.

Peace and stability in the Ummah

Madam Chairperson, Tourism is a fickle and volatile industry which thrives in tranquil regions and withers very fast under unstable and uncertain environments characterised by turmoil and civil strife. Islamic tourism like all other forms of tourism therefore, can only thrive in peaceful places where people are able to go about their excursions and enjoy their holidays in a peace and tranquility.

Luckily, many countries in the Ummah are in a state of political and economic serenity which affords them the number one ingredient needed to put together a stable and sustainable tourism industry.

This is a major potential upon which we could build a robust industry which will be the envy of the world. To cite the example of The Gambia, where I am Minister for Tourism, we have over the years used its peaceful and stable climate to market it as a destination worthy of visit and with much success, I can attest to.

From the foregoing and of course many more factors which time does not allow us to touch on here, it is obvious that indeed the prospects for Islamic tourism are bright, and hopeful. The religion which we all profess and subscribe to has provided solid basis for the development of Islamic tourism;

The majority of Islamic nations have the cultural resources needed to attract Visitors and the peace and stability required for the industry to thrive. It therefore seems that what stands between us and success now is indeed nothing but action, coordinated action between us for us to harvest this rich fruit dangling above our heads.

But of course, we should be courageous enough to admit that there enormous challenges which we must tackle to ensure an even richer harvest of this fruit.


A sound and sustainable tourism industry depends first, on a solid legal and administrative framework which will have to spell out the basis and position and role of tourism and its allied sectors in our national development agendas. This is usually taken for granted and thus makes many Islamic countries not to gain the optimum from the industry. The absence of policy guidelines is also a threat to building a sustainable Islamic tourism industry.

Closely linked to this is the perilous state of heritage sites and monuments in our countries. Low budget, natural calamities and wars pose a severe threat to built monuments, and even archives and museums where the golden heritage of our Ummah is kept or showcased. Our attractions should be well kept and conserved to add value to visitations, as they provide a vivid picture of the rich Muslim civilization. In this regard, the role of ISESCO, the Islamic Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization is paramount in assisting and working with Islamic States to conserve and protect heritage sites in Muslim countries.

Moreover, unity and stability anchored on political and social peace should be encouraged in the Ummah. The development of Islamic tourism depends on stable destinations. Sadly, terror and war have of late engulfed certain Islamic countries such that heritage is being destroyed, and people unable to move about freely. This is a major problem which the Ummah through the OIC should work towards living. Terror and wars have no place in Islam, and should be firmly condemned.

Islamic tourism will also thrive better if services which are halal are provided for Muslim tourists such as halal menus and facilities for devotion and prayers in accordance with Islamic practices and precepts. This is a challenge which investors and stakeholders in the Islamic tourism market should try to surmount.


Madam Chairperson, I wish to conclude by saying that, The Islamic economy has great potentials towards contributing to the advancement and stability of the global economy. It is also a fact that, the synergy between our different Islamic Economy sectors, if harnessed, can enhance the potential of the Islamic economy as a whole.

Islamic tourism on the other hand, stands on the threshold of a great boom which could bring prosperity and unity to all our countries. Islamic tourism could become one of the great opportunities that will give the Ummah a stronger voice in world economics and also help to improve the image of our religion and communities. Above all, Islamic tourism will contribute to the generation of more employment opportunities for our people both directly and indirectly.

It will also contribute to the development of infrastructure such as roads, bridges and electricity, and contribute to the provision of social amenities even in poor communities. Above all, Islamic tourism will contribute immensely to raising the international profile of our countries.

Finally, I wish to also state categorically that the Islamic Ummah can be a strong force to be reckoned with if we stand together and speak with a single voice.

(+) We can only be respected when we are able to stop the wars that are raging in some of our countries that kills innocent men, women and children, displacing them from their homes.

(+) We can only be taken seriously when we disassociate ourselves completely from the politics of hate and slander, and condemn all forms of terrorism that hide behind Islam, because Islam is a religion and a way of life of peace, love and social harmony.

(+) We must also remain resolute against all forms of racial and social discrimination and channel our energies into uplifting the lives of our people many of whom continue to wallow in the doldrums of poverty and want.

(+) But above all, we must be each other’s keeper, so that imperialists and enemies of Islam will not be able to drive a wedge between us.

This is the demand of our times and now is the time to act and to act accordingly.

I thank you all for your kind attention.

Asalaamu Aiaikum, Wa rahmatu lahi taala wa barakaatu Hu.