Toronto hoping to attract more UAE travellers

Arabic language TV channels and newspapers and a selection of halal food options in restaurants are just some of the ideas being used to entice travellers from the Emirates and the region by Tourism Toronto.

Tourists on the Centre Island ferry in Toronto, Canada. The city’s tourism authority says it has invested greatly to make visitors from the Middle East more comfortable in travelling there. Brent Lewin /Bloomberg News
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DUBAI // Tourism chiefs from Canada’s biggest city are aiming to attract more visitors from the UAE and across the Middle East with a host of Muslim-friendly initiatives.

Offerings include Arabic-language TV channels and newspapers, copies of the Quran, prayer mats, arrows showing the direction of Mecca in hotel rooms and a selection of halal food in restaurants.

These and other ideas are being used to entice travellers from the region by Tourism Toronto at this year’s annual Arabian Travel Market event in Dubai.

“At the moment the numbers are relatively small but we are looking to ramp up the numbers through major new initiatives,” said David Whitaker, president of Tourism Toronto.

Mr Whitaker said regular flights by the UAE’s airlines had made travel between the two countries easier and more popular with tourists.

“Thanks to Etihad and Emirates, the direct links between the UAE and Toronto already exist,” he said. “We are here to reinforce our strong focus on this market, investing time and resources to strengthen the bridges between our two countries.

“Toronto’s diversity is one of the factors that makes us appealing to travellers from this region. Guests to the city will feel a sense of being at home while experiencing an abundance of new experiences.

“By providing a mix of the familiar and the new, we want to position Toronto as a strong alternative to the traditional European destinations.”

Laila Suhail, chief executive of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishments, said Muslim-friendly tourism was a growing market and one of the reasons Dubai remained so popular with travellers.

“A lot of countries have started focusing on this, like Malaysia offering more halal food. These options make a big difference for Muslim travellers,” she said.

Ms Suhail, an Emirati, said availability of halal food was always something she took into consideration when planning a trip.

“When I travel I make sure food is halal or else I go vegetarian or pescetarian.”

She said with Ramadan and Eid in summer again this year, people from the region were likely to take their annual holidays earlier and for longer than usual, meaning destinations could gain a lot by promoting themselves as Muslim friendly.

Toronto is represented by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at its stand in the region’s largest travel exhibition, being held at the Dubai International Convention Centre until Thursday.

“Being based in one of the most multicultural cities in the world, several of our staff are proficient in Arabic,” said Tim Terceira, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto. “A number of our staff members have also worked in the GCC and have a deep understanding of the region, its cultural sensitivities and local customs.”