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Halal tourism and gene editing: Change drivers in MENA today

February 20, 2017 3:37 pm

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* The tourism industry has woken up to the growing spending power of the Muslim traveller well beyond the Arab world

* The Saudi Human Genome Programme looks to sequence the genomes of 100,000 Saudis, to identify population-specific risk variants

* The Year of Giving harks back to Sheikh Zayed’s legacy that measured generosity not only by donations but also by a positive impact on a person’s life

 

Gene Editing, New Mental Health, Halal Tourism and The Year of Giving are only few trends describing the region’s advancing social change, according to J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group report.

 

Titled Future 100 Trends and Change to Watch in 2017, the report highlights the top 100 consumer trends driving change across the MENA region.

 

Authored by Mennah Ibrahim, MEA Director of the J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group, the 100 trends are categorised into ten major consumer categories, including travel & hospitality, retail, health, and food & drink.

 
An increasing demand for brands and lifestyle products to offer Muslim-centric options has fuelled a wave of innovative solutions from startups all over the world. Created by and about a diverse yet inclusive Muslim identity, they prioritise social justice and social impact within the business models.

 

Gene Editing

The Arab world is poised to take off on the biotech frontier. Pioneering initiatives are surfacing that will fill the lack of Middle Eastern genomics data, and potentially revolutionise the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. The Saudi Human Genome Programme looks to sequence the genomes of 100,000 Saudis, to identify population-specific risk variants. This programme makes the Kingdom the region’s leading centre for human genetics research. And Egypt is planning an Egyptian reference database which they will use to micro-dissect Egyptian cancers.

 

New Mental Health

Suicide rates have skyrocketed within the last year with drivers of mental illness such as – violence, injustice, inequality and the impact of modern-day living – all taking their toll on MENA societies. One suicide is reported every three days in Lebanon, and in the UAE a 2013 Dubai Health Authority study uncovered that one in five teenage students in the emirate were showing symptoms of depression. Companies are now partnering with government organisations to offer consumers support – a much-needed initiative when anxiety rates for Generation Z are already through the roof.

 

Halal Tourism

The tourism industry has woken up to the growing spending power of the Muslim traveller well beyond the Arab world. Asia and Europe already account for 87 per cent of the entire market. Muslim business travel is expected to reach $22 billion by 2020, with Muslim travel overall expected to be worth $220 billion (MasterCard and Crescent Rating, Oct 2016). Closer to home, Mecca is gearing up as a MICE travel destination in Saudi Arabia, combining Umrah pilgrimage trips with business visits. Hospitality brands are making sure they do not miss out on the segment.

 

(UAE halal tourism market set to grow with 4.4 per cent rise in spend)

 

The Year of Giving

Underscoring the importance of humanitarian work, HH Sheikh Khalifa has decreed a philanthropic approach to strengthening social responsibility in the private sector, with The Year of Giving. Promoting the spirit of volunteerism and instilling loyalty and commitment in the next generation, it harks back to Sheikh Zayed’s legacy that measured generosity not only by donations but also by a positive impact on a person’s life, on society and the UAE nation. Partnerships with the private sector are expected to bring something exceptional to the community and contribute effectively to societal development.

 

(Dubai ruler celebrates 11th accession anniversary by giving more)

 

Data, the New Luxury

In an age that has become increasingly beholden to data, people are coming to consider their data as highly precious. Evolving past conventional security on devices, the PSK series of jewellery have replaced diamonds and gems with something far more valuable per square millimetre: personal data. Founded by Wagenknecht and Sunde, the PSK series shines a harsh light on the tech industry that relies on users’ data, instead of direct payment, to fund their operations. This is entirely in line with our SONAR data which revealed that 81 per cent of people in MENA believe they should be compensated for their data.

 

(Data management to help SMEs reap Islamic economy gains: Expert)

 

Mennah Ibrahim, MEA Director of the Innovation Group, said, “Having documented how consumers are evolving for over five years now, it is incredible to watch the pace of change accelerate so much across the region. We are experiencing technological developments – and the ethical questions they bring; we are taking huge progressive societal steps across major markets; and we are embracing our polycultural, influential and forward driving momentum for hope. It’s not easy living in today’s constant state of uncertainty – not for brands, nor consumers. Yet the trends we have identified all point towards an exciting, collaborative and compassionate future.”

 

This article was first published on Communicate Online, a sister title of AMEinfo.

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AMEinfo Staff
By AMEinfo Staff
AMEinfo staff members report business news and views from across the Middle East and North Africa region, and analyse global events impacting the region today.