Tourism is increasingly becoming a popular income earning source for many Middle East and Arab countries. Today we are seeing countries that were averse to any form of international tourism and interaction in the past embracing and creating new attractions for international visitors of all walks of life and faiths and more particularly for Muslim visitors. Some countries like United Arab Emirates are engaged in promotional programs that will see the country invest billions of dollars hoping to raise its tourism arrival to fifteen million visitors by the year 2010.
A new phenomenon, Islamic tourism has come up and is being championed by the Muslim countries. Islamic Tourism comprises of three major components; economic, cultural and religious. Economic concept of the Islamic tourism is targeting at creating new tourism attractions and destinations while at the same time strengthening institutional and regional co-operation inside the Arab and Muslim world. The Cultural concept emphasizes Islamic culture and topics in the organization and development of tourists programs and putting more emphasis on places of Islamic culture and heritage as tourist destinations
Religious concept of the Islamic tourism aims at cultivating the theme of pilgrimage as touristic, while aligning the tourism industry to the key pillars and fundamental interpretations of Islamic religion. Gender-segregation, alcohol free and Islamic community tourism are key ideals being envisaged in this new development (Shakry 47). In the recent past cultural tourism has been declining. Previously popular destinations among the westerners were in most cases not popular at all or even not rated attractive at all by Arab tourists.
This has called for re-thinking of new ways of attracting and retaining for longer Arab and Muslim tourists . Many of the Arab and Muslim countries started reorganizing their facilities to cater for the growing demand of the Arab and Muslim tourists and at the same time linkages and engagement with other Arab states and Muslim countries to pull together in tourism policy development has build some steam in the past. The Arab world has been gathering in conferences attended by ministers and senior government officials in tourism since 2000.
In 2003 the first tourism exchange bringing together the whole Arab world was held in Beirut was touted to be a success (Shakry 70). The cultural elements of the Islamic tourism involve religious and cultural teachings and individual confidence development. This will comprise of redirecting tourist destinations and attractions away from consumption and western-Culture loaded sites towards more of religious, cultural and historical Islamic sites.
The emphasis by tourism development authorities and the tourism operators is to market Islamic cultural heritage sites and their inclusion as special programs is an example of new development in Islamic tourism (Al-touraihi par. 1). A particular emphasis of this idea is the concerted efforts to bring religious and leisure tourism in joint programs. An example is the Muslim state of Saudi Arabia which has development of an updated pilgrim experience that incorporates leisure events in addition to traditional visits to historical and religious sites (Meethan 270).
This concept is being replicated elsewhere in the Arab and Muslim world. Sites such as Karbala and Najf in Iraq,Mu’t in Jordan,Qum in Iran and other shrines in Morocco and many other similar sites across the Arab Muslim world are being addresses as a joint effort by Tourism developers and oerators in the Arab and Muslim world (Al-touraihi Par. 3). Kuwait as a country in the Muslim word stands to benefit a lot if it adopts the Islamic tourism. Kuwait tourism offers a mixture of the past, the present. It illuminates the past, modern yet conventional and flexible to new trends (TUI travel par.
3). Kuwait has a vast and rich istory. Modern day Kuwait started in the 16th century to 18th century. Kuwait has maximum deserts and one will not find huge altitude differences. It is located at the northwestern of the Persian Gulf. Economically Kuwait ranks as one of the economically endowed nation in the world. It is endowed with large reservoirs of oil deposits . Kuwait demographics show that majority are Muslims and Arabic is the official language with several pockets of English and Hindu being spoken (TUI travel Par. 5). Kuwait can be said to have a well developed tourism industry.
It has several tourist destination and tourist sightseeing. The supportive Hotel and Hospitality industry is also well developed with major known hotels like Movenpick, Sheraton, Crowne Plaza, Calton and many varied others that suit all kind of tourists that come to Kuwait. Kuwait also offers a wide variety of restaurants offering a wide range of delicacies and favorite dishes to all kinds of visitors (TUI travel para. 7). Kuwait has a varied number of popular destinations from historical edifices, to Museums, religious places like popular mosques and churches .
Art work and paintings of these mosques and churches illuminate a rare blend of traditional and modern architecture. Sightseeing is popular. Kuwait is home to one of the tallest Skyscrapers in the world, liberation towers and Kuwait Towers in Kuwait city (TUI travel par. 8). Kuwait is poised to benefit immensely from the Islamic tourism efforts in the region because of its numerous tourist attraction, rich culture, Architecture and museums, proximity to Saudi Arabia, economically stable country and well developed tourist amenities in the Kuwait city.
It has a beautiful continental climate favorable for European and American visitors. The tourism development authorities and the Kuwait government will need to enhance the development of Islamic tourism in Kuwait is to re-think the traditional historic sites and develop programs that not only include them but also offer historical insight of their significance in the current modern world history. The government will be required to develop concepts and programs that are attractive to the Muslim world.
Kuwait has an opportunity to advance the cultural concept of Islamic tourism through their popular festivals and exhibitions and built a regional Arab world modern culture and spirit at the same time making it relevant to the western tourists from Europe and America and other regions of the world including the Muslin Asian countries (Arabia 26). Kuwait is economically a very stable nation. It is strategically located between Saudi Arabia and Iraq the rich nations of the Middle East and Arab world.
Through collaboration with other governments on tourism it is very possible to develop joint programs that increase tourist arrival in Kuwait as they visit other religious and regional historical sites. Kuwait has the opportunity to attract both the western based tourist whilst increasingly becoming a favorite destination for the Arab and Muslim visitors. Islamic tourism is the new key to development of Kuwait’s tourism and also as one of the new economic earners of the region.
The country has had relatively peaceful relationships with the west and has kept a stable monarch form of government. The west and specifically the American government have always supported Kuwait’s development of modern industrial and commercial business activities. Hence development of tourist attractions that cater for the greater western based taste and the peculiar needs and likes of the Arab and Muslim world would propel the industry to greater heights and invigorate economic and social development.
It would be key to bringing back the western based tourist to the Middle East region, which scared away from Middle East and Arab countries since the September the eleven tragedies in New York and the war on terror flashbacks that followed afterward. In conclusion a well implemented Islamic tourism blended with the conventional tourism would unravel new and hitherto unimagined economic activities and opportunities to Kuwait. Works Cited Al-touraihi, Muhammad Said. Islamic tourism spring. 19 April 2003. 30 03 2009 <www. islamictourism. com>. Arabia, Meetings in Saudi.
“To draw up framework for Tourism Sector Islamic tourism 3”. Spring 2002. 30 march 2009. ARABIA, Meetings in SAUDI. “To draw up framework for Tourism Sector. ” Islamic tourism. 2002. 70. Meethan, Kevin. Tourism in a Global Society. New York: Palgrave, 2001. Shakry, Adel-sahib. Finally-at last! A magazine for Islamic Tourism and Here’s Why’ Islamic Tourism 1. Autumn 2001. 30 03 2009 <www. islamictourism. com>. —. Introduction. 19 april 2003. 30 March 2009 <www. islamictourism. com>. TUI travel, PLC. http:www. asianrooms/kuwait/kuwait. html. 29 march 2009 <www. asiarooms. com /kuwait/kuwait. html>.