Saudi Arabia-based UmrahHolidays International (UHI), part of B2B accommodation provider WebBeds, has signed two partnership agreements to deepen its reach within China’s fast-growing halal tourism and Umrah pilgrimage sectors.
The agreements are made with Haoqiao, a wholesaler in China with a nationwide network of more than 17,000 retail travel agents; and Mafengwo, a Chinese OTA with over 130 million registered users.
Under the new partnerships, Haoqiao will become the official retail distributor of UHI in China, while Mafengwo will be the company’s exclusive OTA partner. This will help UHI to extend its reach across China, where international tourism is becoming increasingly popular among the country’s estimated 20 million Muslims.
“We understand that for many Muslims, the Umrah pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But all too often the planning and booking process can be complex and daunting. UHI’s deep local knowledge, global network and multilingual team will take away the stress. Chinese customers can rest assured that they will enjoy a full range of professional services from four of the most trusted names in the industry: WebBeds, UmrahHolidays International, Haoqiao and Mafengwo,” said Aly Siky, CEO, UHI.
“China has a large and vibrant Muslim population, and an increasing number are now looking for opportunities to make their pilgrimages to the holy lands of Saudi Arabia. This is a growing sector of the market… We expect to see a sharp rise in online bookings for Umrah travel following this collaboration,” said Yu HongShang, senior director, Mafengwo.
The Umrah is an important Islamic pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. Unlike the Hajj, which has to be performed on specific dates, the Umrah can be undertaken at any time of the year. Through UHI, Muslims travellers can book standalone accommodation at a choice of more than 600 hotels in Makkah, Medina, Jeddah and other nearby cities, or full Umrah packages.
According to the Mastercard-Crescentrating Global Muslim Travel Index 2018, the global halal travel market is forecast to surge from 131 million international travellers in 2017 to 158 million in 2020, and the sector expected to be worth US$220 billion.