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Australia to lure Muslim tourists



2010-08-17 12:54

Sydney – After a series of tourism campaigns focusing on bikinis and beaches, Australia is taking a new tack with a “Ramadan lounge” concept designed to appeal to travelling Muslims.

With Queensland’s sunny winters increasingly luring Middle Eastern tourists escaping the oppressive heat of their summer months, local officials decided to open a venue designed for Muslims observing the Ramadan month of fasting.

Tourism Queensland regional director Paul Buggy said while some hotels, shopping centres and theme parks in the state already offered Muslim prayer rooms, officials wanted to go “one step further”.

The result is the Ramadan Lounge at the Courtyard Marriott hotel in the town of Surfers Paradise, where people can come three evenings a week during the Muslim holy month to break their daily fast with dates, snacks and coffee.

“It’s a function room that we’ve converted into a comfortable lounge where we are inviting Muslims to come and break their fast,” Buggy told AFP.

The lounge, which is designed to accommodate about 50 people, will be free to all and open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from sunset to about 21:00 until early September.

Australia’s tourism numbers have dwindled after record highs in the 1990s but Buggy said there were growing numbers of Middle Eastern and North African travellers, who accounted for some 20 500 visitors to Queensland state in 2009.

“We expect that the Middle East (tourist market) is going to grow more than 12% yearly up to 2013,” Buggy said. “It’s a long-stay, high-yielding market so therefore is one of our priority markets.”

Australian tourism initiatives have struggled in recent years, with 2006’s “So where the bloody hell are you?” campaign deemed offensive by many foreigners.

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