Spain has grown its halal tourism and food sales, leveraging its geographic proximity to Muslim countries in North Africa to provide travel and accommodation services.
In the CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index 2021, Spain climbed six positions to rank 16th among the top non-member destinations of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). DinarStandard’s State of the Global Islamic Economy report 2020/21 states that in 2019, 2.77 million Muslim tourists visited the country.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on businesses, but experts in the halal sector believe Spain is in a good position to expand its tourism and Muslim-oriented food sales.
According to the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (INE), from January to September 2021, 48,733 Moroccans visited the country, far less than the 128,468 who visited Spain in 2020 and the 741,855 enumerated in 2019. La pandemic has also affected the number of Turkish visitors: increasing from 269,557 in 2019 to 62,837 in 2020 and 48,460 from January to September 2021.
Tomás Guerrero, director of the Dubai government’s Halal Trade and Marketing Center – and himself a Spaniard – is optimistic that these numbers will increase. And alongside them, sales of halal food products, cosmetics and even pharmaceuticals in Spain. There are 2.2 million Muslims living in Spain, representing around 4% of the population in 2020, according to the Union of Islamic Communities of Spain (UCIDE) and the Andalusian Observatory, with 42% of Spanish citizens and 58 % of immigrants with residence and work permits. , especially from Morocco.
Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Senegal, Algeria, Nigeria and Bangladesh are also present in significant numbers. Guerrero noted DinarStandard data according to which $ 6.8 billion was spent in Spain on products associated with a Muslim lifestyle in 2019, such as halal foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and travel, clothing. and modest clothing, as well as Muslim-focused media and entertainment.
Spanish halal exporters also supplied $ 4.7 billion worth of halal-certified food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products to OIC countries that year, he said.
The figure could be higher but there is “resistance” from some companies with certified products to sell them in the country with the halal stamp for fear that they will not be bought by non-Muslim consumers and in due to controversies with animal welfare activists, explained Muhammad Escudero. , director of the certification department at the Halal Institute, the main halal certification body in Spain.
And while acknowledging that the pandemic has slowed the growth of the Spanish halal market, Escudero also believes sales will increase, especially food exports. Some companies sell new halal products such as nuts, with a halal certificate, in predominantly Muslim markets, for example the Spanish Calconut SL.
Extenda, the trade promotion agency in Andalusia, where much of Spain’s tourism sector is based, responded that there was no official data on exports of halal products. That said, the number of restaurants nationwide with at least one dish with certified halal meat has increased from 121 in 2011 to 344 this year, leveling off during the pandemic, with 343 in 2020, up from 340 in 2019. The figures reflect those recorded in the guide to restaurants and halal markets Zabiha, its founder Shahed Amanullah told Salaam Gateway.
Amanullah predicts a return to “robust growth”, adding that Spain is an important market not only because of its appeal to Muslim travelers and its growing population of North African descent, but also because it is ready to be a major supplier of halal meat to the rest of Europe. Indeed, restrictions on the production of halal meat, such as increased stun requirements, have been introduced in some European countries, such as Belgium, and must therefore import it for their large Muslim populations.
Spain does not face such problems, he said. “Spanish meat-based deli products are world-renowned and halal meat producers in Spain have taken the opportunity to produce halal versions of these products. They are starting to stand out in markets outside of Spain where halal processed meat options do not include traditional European products, ”Amanullah said.
Singapore-based platform eHalal.io, with 230,000 monthly users, saw a “284% increase in website traffic from last year to this year from the Spanish market,” said the founder Irwan Shah at Salaam Gateway. He added that most Muslim users in Spain “search for global Muslim food brands.” About 90% of the Spanish market is made up of small retailers who also sell other groceries and a few supermarket chains that “don’t normally promote” their limited halal products, Shah said.
For the future, Madrid is striving to become “one of the benchmark European capitals” for emerging Muslim markets, said Madrid City Hall Tourism Director Héctor Coronel. Madrid’s new strategic tourism plan 2021-2023 “focuses on this market due to its characteristics and growth potential,” he explained, including plans to promote greater transport connectivity between Madrid and Muslim-majority countries by working with tour operators to adjust their services.
Coronel has specified Saudi Arabia as “the country with the most potential” for Madrid, due to its large population and its “openness to the West”, but the city council is also trying to attract tourists from the Emirates. Arab Emirates, Qatar, Indonesia and Malaysia. Madrid is already promoting its Muslim heritage, mosques and halal services.
In the early Middle Ages, what is now Spain was part of a group of Muslim states called Al-Andalus – idealized as a golden age of tolerance and reason. With most or part of the country under Muslim rule from 711 to 1492, Spain can reap the cultural dividends of its Islamic past. For example, the Tourism Institute of Spain promotes several “Al-Andalus Heritage Routes” in the southern region of Andalusia to attract Muslim tourists. Part of the offer includes delicatessens, whose products are sold as halal souvenirs.
The Halal Institute is working with hotels and restaurants to help them meet the needs of Muslims, but only a few hotels are so far Halal certified (in terms of service offerings) and they have not been renewed for pandemic, Escudero said, noting that it is “difficult” to create “a space or a hotel for one type of clientele.”
In order to promote a wide range of certifications, the Halal Institute is developing a “more flexible” mechanism called “authorized Halal point of sale” to promote small businesses offering non-certified Halal products or services or products certified by others. companies. This does not require certifying the company itself, which requires more costs and bureaucracy, he told Salaam Gateway.
Guerrero added that Spain can benefit from the fact that “countries in North Africa and the Middle East import around 60-70%” of their food. These emerging markets, with younger populations, a growing number of working women and digital natives, are an attractive target for the approximately 1,000 Spanish companies that have halal certification. For him, Spain is an important player in the halal food market because it exports “a wider spectrum” of products to countries which export more in volume, but with less diversity.
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