British Tourist Authority statistics show that visits to the UK from the Middle East region increased by almost 10% to 1.27 million in 2019, while total spending also increased by 10 % to reach 2.71 billion pounds ($3.6 billion).
Travelers from Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan made 360,110 visits to the UK in 2019, spending around £453m ($615m) over the period, 13% more than in 2018.
The UK’s fifth place in the 2021 Anholt-Ipsos National Brands Index highlights the destination’s top attractions. The country scored highest for sports, historic buildings and monuments, contemporary culture, and vibrant city life.
The index measures the national reputation of 60 countries around the world, based on scores in six categories: tourism, culture, population, immigration-investment, exports and governance.
In 2019, the £1.4 billion ($1.9 billion) spent by visitors attending a Soccer during their trip represents 5% of all inbound tourism expenditures that year. Qatar is the top inbound market for football spending, accounting for £118m ($160m). With an outlay of £55m ($75m), the United Arab Emirates take sixth place.
However, with the FIFA World Cup 2022 scheduled in Qatar from November 21 to December 18, the UK could miss some of the football-related spending in the Middle East this year.
Overall, the Global Muslim Travel Index 2021 expects the Muslim travel market to recover up to 80% of 2019 levels (160 million arrivals) by 2023, predicting that tourism will be more personalized with smaller numbers and revamped visitor experiences.
AbdulMaalik Tailor, a licensed tourist guide, has already been applying this concept for 10 years. He founded Halal Tourism Britain in 2012, which specializes in Halal food experiences and Muslim history tours.
“The Muslim community values history very much,” Tailor told Salaam Gateway. “Even in the UK there has been a movement for more people to want to know more about Muslim heritage in Britain.” Tailor said that since the COVID-19 pandemic, the share of its local customers has increased from 50% to 80%.
The oldest physical evidence of Islam and the earliest example of Arabic script in Britain is an 8th century gold coin struck by the Anglo-Saxon King Offa of Mercia with the Islamic declaration of faith (Shahadah) inscribed above.
Along with all the tourist attractions the UK has to offer, Tailor sees greater Muslim friendliness as a competitive advantage over other European destinations, pointing to the ease of performing prayers as an example.
“There are 2,131 Muslim places of worship in the UK. We even have prayer rooms in football stadiums now,” he said.
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