Antalya-based Fusion Tour has launched an Islamic cruise business expanding the spectrum of halal tourism, a rising trend in Turkey and its region.
On their September voyage to neighboring Greece, there will be noalcohol, no pork-related products and no gambling. Everything on board will be in accordance with Islamic religious values, including segregated sports centers, single-sex spa facilities, separate Turkish baths and masjids or small prayer rooms. The number of halal hotels and tour agents has been increasing over the last 15 years.
However, there had not been a halal sea cruise until Fusion Tour organized this special voyage, copying a lucrative format which has seen kosher-friendly and Catholic cruises internationally. Turkey’s first Muslim-friendly cruise – themed “On the track of the Ottomans” – will leave a port in Turkey’s Aegean province of İzmir on Sept. 27 and take its passengers to the Greek islands of Rhodes and Crete as well as the port city of Piraeus by Oct. 2. “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,” said Fusion Tour general manager Kemal Günay.
Tour project manager Gökmen Aydınalp claimed organizers have thought of everything. “We don’t even have a painting on a wall of the ship which is against Islamic values,” he said. “Although the tour has been just announced, interest is quite high right now because there is a huge demand for this concept,” Aydınalp added. Passengers who booked a spot on the cruise are glad to be part of what they describe as a “much-awaited” concept. “I believe it will be an atmosphere where I and my family will feel comfortable,” said 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 added. Organizers have seen huge potential in a market of over two billion Muslims worldwide, and are planning to host varied tour packages to include the Adriatic Sea, Italy, Malta, Budapest, Belgrade and Vienna in the upcoming months. Their target will not only be Turks but also Muslims globally. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, around three million Arab tourists came to Turkey in 2014. This number was two million in 2013.There are over 50 hotels that offer conservative service across the country. Antalya, Istanbul, İzmir, Aydın, Muğla and the capital Ankara are the major provinces which host such hotels, according to the Mediterranean Touristic Hotels Association (AKTOB).
“The number of these hotels was around 25 before 2007. Within five years, the number of this kind of hotel doubled,” said Erol Karabulut, AKTOB’s research and development supervisor. “We expect this interest will continue,” he added. The Global Muslim Travel Index 2015 released by Mastercard and Singapore-based Crescent Rating estimated the size of the global halal
tourism market at $145 billion in 2014.