The Gambia has joined the world's powerful Islamic states in promoting Islamic Tourism as a new ethical dimension of tourism that has a strong impact on the economic growth of the member states of the Organisation of Islamic Corporation (OIC).
At the recent OIC's first Forum on Islamic Tourism held in Jakarta, Indonesia, member countries through their representatives explored the potentials of Islamic Tourism in propelling the rapid of growth of the wider global tourism sector.
The Forum, which was held as a follow-up to the resolution of the Eighth Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers held in Banjul, The Gambia, on 6th December 2013, was attended by over 30 representatives of OIC member countries and private sector personnel. It was presided over by the vice president of the Republic of Indonesia.
The Gambia's Tourism and Culture minister, Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, led a delegation to this maiden Forum. Upon her return, she told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview that the country stands to gain a lot from the anticipated benefits of Islamic tourism. The minister indicated that Islamic Tourism is growing and expressed confidence that it will impact positively on the economic development of OIC member countries, particularly in generating job opportunities and encouraging the growth of the activities of small and medium enterprises.
"Global Muslim spending on tourism (outbound) is estimated to be US$137 billion in 2012(excluding Hajj and Umrah). Total spending during the same period is estimated to be $1,095 billion in 2012, making the Muslim tourism market to be 12.5% of global expenditure. Muslim tourism expenditure is expected to grow to $1.81 billion by 2018. Comparatively, the collective global Muslim tourism market is larger than the largest tourist source country of United States - whose outbound tourist spend is $122 billion in 2012 followed by Germany, at $94.7 billion, China at $89 billion and UK at $64.39 billion. Regionally, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the largest in terms of expenditure, representing 31% of total Muslim travel expenditure," she explained.
The minister opined that the growing profitability of Islamic Tourism will encourage the private sector in OIC countries to increase their investments in Islamic Tourism products. She projected that Islamic Tourism could become one of the greatest opportunities that would give the Ummah a stronger voice in world economics, improve the image of Islam, generate more employment opportunities and contribute to the development of infrastructure