August 30th, 2012
10:57 AM GMT
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Hong Kong (CNN) - With the number of visitors from the Middle East to Asia on the rise, Hong Kong is re-examining what it has on offer to entice more travelers to its sights.

Since 2000, the number of visitors to Asia from the Middle East has surged from around 600,000 to over 1.6 million annually.

But Hong Kong only attracts a small portion of those visitors, a situation it is trying to change by promoting itself as a gateway to China for Mid Eastern travelers.

The city already has a sizeable Muslim population. According to Mohammed Khan, one of 15 Muslim leaders of Hong Kong's Islamic Council Union, there are no firm estimates of the number of Muslims in Hong Kong but at his “guestimate, it's around half a million people.“

Hong Kong boasts five mosques that serve the city's Muslim inhabitants. Khan, a Hong Kong native, says he sees more Mideast visitors to the city now than in the past.

“There are a lot of individual visits – businessman, family visits and what not. They are mainly from the Middle Eastern countries from Kuwait, UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” he told CNN’s Ramy Inocencio.

Visitors are attracted by relatively cheaper shopping, Disneyland and Mickey Mouse, and business in mainland China.

But keeping halal – steering clear of foods like pork and lard – is traditionally what makes it harder for Muslim tourists in Hong Kong.

The city of 7 million only has an estimated 50 or so halal restaurants.

Adjoining his mosque, Khan manages an Islamic canteen which serves Hong Kong's only halal dimsum. Being half-Chinese and half-Pakistani, he's helping residents and visitors bridge cultural divides.

The portion of Mid East visitors to Hong Kong is growing. Since 1997, the number has risen nearly four-fold, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Even so – only 200,000 Mideast visitors came to the city last year. That's less than a tenth of a percent of the city's total tourists.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board wants to change that.

"We are committed to continue to conduct our marketing program and keep investing in the Middle East region because we believe it will continue to bring us growth, said Anthony Lau, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

And Edwin Lau, Emirates Airlines Hong Kong vice-president, hopes to capitalize on the hoped-for increase.

He says growth for the Dubai-based carrier to Hong Kong has been fantastic.

“In 1997 we were only operating one aircraft which was Airbus 330 – the configuration was about 220 passengers. And today, we are operating three flights out of Hong Kong every night. So the total capacity is about 1,100.”

Lau doesn't think Mideast visitors face any impediment in Hong Kong but he does suggest improvements.

“We could think about building a few more mosques for the Middle East people and we should also set up some halal restaurants in Hong Kong, which suit the taste of the Middle East people.”

All part of the quest to make this a more welcoming city…and encourage people from the Middle East to answer the call from the Far East.

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Drinking Coca cola.


    August 31, 2012 at 2:59 am |
  2. Tony

    Hongkong is getting more and more expensive day by day. Especially the hotels. When visiting a country if you expect the person to come and spend money he has to have a good affordable place to stay. As hotels are all growing in price points of US$100 a day and over. And travelers might stay anywhere from 3-7 days. So add your ticket price ,plus hotel, plus food. and still if you like to shop. In my opinion HK is not a place for regular people to visit , Its more tailored for a up class high end customers. So off course volume is not there at that end. I think HK should reduce the Hotel prices as a 1st start. Also people do not want to stay at guest houses as long as the atmosphere is dangerous and no security at night in the building from crime. There should be improvement on that also.

    August 31, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  3. vnrw75

    Reblogged this on vnrw75's Blog.

    September 8, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  4. icons library

    What words...

    September 22, 2012 at 3:36 am |
  5. Jack 3

    Hear that muslims in America? go to Hong Kong.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  6. Tombstone

    Sure, give them enough space and they'll infest your city, demand special rights over the locals, eliminate who they don't like. When you live in another country you should respect their rules or go home.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  7. Andy Wilson

    Welcome to the Mus lification of China

    September 28, 2012 at 2:37 am |
  8. Andy Wilson

    Tombstone, read about wanting the local schools to adapt to their culture, look up...... Murfreesboro mosque

    September 28, 2012 at 2:38 am |
  9. icon set

    Please, more in detail

    November 4, 2012 at 7:59 pm |

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