Halaal Tourism: a growing industry

The concept of Halaal tourism, which concerns 1.8 billion Muslims all over the world, is the fastest growing trend of global tourism.  Halaal tourism refers to practices and services that specifically cater Muslim visitors, based on Islamic values including Halaal food, permissible entertainment, praying facilities, morality, health and hygiene.  In many countries, hotel and travel-related companies are ready to make changes in their plans and approaches in order to lure tourists from Muslim countries. 

The concept of Halaal tourism started some 20 years ago in Turkey where a large part of the Turkish society requested for Hotels nad Resorts to respect certain specifications that meet the needs of conservative families, such as private beaches for ladies, special place for prayer and swimming pools and special attention to the items and ingredients used in food preparation as well as the cooking and serving methods. 

The demand for Halaal Tourism increased rapidly and it spread to Malaysia, Indonesia as well as some major cities in Europe.  This new industry is witnessing an influx of investments and it is being rated as billion-dollar business.  Halaal Tourism attracts not only Muslims but also a considerable number of non-Muslim conservative families who seek to spend their holidays in a clean atmosphere marked with best behaviours and devoid of moral decay.

In 2014, it was estimated that the amount of Muslim spending on travel, excluding Hajj and Umrah, was about $145 billion with 108 million Muslim travelers, thus making the market of Halaal Tourism account for 11% of global volume of spending on travel market.  This trend will grow every year and it is expected that it will rise to $200 billion by 2020 with 150 million Muslim travelers.  While most hotels suffer during the month of Ramadan, some countries in the Southern Hemisphere, in particular in Australia, are coming up with creative ideas by advertising directly to Muslim tourists, offering option to spend Ramadan in a cooler temperature in compliance with Islamic traditions.

The first International Halaal Tourism Conference was held in Grenada, Spain in 2014.  The second edition of this Conference will kick off in Konya, Turkey on 3rd May 2016 with a 3-day event.  The aim of this Conference is to standardize and enhance Muslim-friendly tourism market.  The event will give the opportunity for global tourism industry and sector professionals to meet and discuss strategies on how to tap into this niche market.  By convening this conference in the old city of Konya, which is famous for the Mauseleum of Mevlana Rumi, Turkey wants to project the richness of its cultural asset.

One of the Muslim countries that have contributed immensely for the promotion of Halaal tourism is Malaysia.  For five consecutive years since 2010, Malaysia has been named the number one destination for Muslim travelers by international bodies such as Thompson Reuters Mastercard and Crescent Rating.  In 2009, the Government of Malaysia approved the setting up of the Islamic Tourism Centre whose core activity is to facilitate the Ministry of Tourism in undertaking strategic research for tourism policy formulation that will enhance travel and sustainable development of the Malaysian tourism industry.  As an effort to engage, educate and guide the tourism stakeholders in promoting the Malaysian Standard on Islamic tourism, Malaysia has come up with tourism guidelines to make the country a more Muslim-friendly destination.  The guidelines – called “MS 2610: 2015 Muslim-Friendly Hospitality Services Requirements” was released in January 2015 with a view to set up a system to preserve and protect the integrity of Malaysian tourism products and services.

Another country that is investing massively in Halaal tourism is the UAE, where the investments in  this new sector are projected to reach $350 million in the next five years.  UAE is the fastest-growing Halaal market in the Gulf Cooperation Cooperation (GCC) region.  UAE has some 30 halaal tourism brands, offering Islamic Shariah-compliant services and products by hotels, restaurants, malls, entertainment places, and they must also be family-friendly.  However, Turkey remains the world’s top halaal destination.  Spending on halaal tourism is expected to grow by 6 per cent, which is double the projection of growth in global tourism.

Indonesia’s Lombok island recently won the World Halaal Travel Awards for the best destination for halaal tourism and also for the best halaal honeymoon destination.  Lombok’s potential for halaal tourism is based on nature and culture – which include visits to museum, pottery village, beach and active volcano.  Although the island is predominantly inhabited by Muslims, it has preserved the sites, relics and vestiges of Buddhist and Hindu temples.

In non-Muslim countries, some hotels have recourse to innovative and creative solutions in order to respond to the needs of their Muslim clients.  They provide for Halaal food corner and “Alcohol Free Zone” in their restaurants.  They remove alcohol and non-Halaal items from the mini-refrigerator of the room and put a prayer mat.  For women, the hotels allocate a customized time of the day in the swimming pools and gyms.

In 2013, South Africa ranked third as a Muslim-friendly destination (after Singapore and Bosnia and Herzegovina) among all the non-Muslim countries outside the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.  The rankings were judged by Crescent Rating whose Director, Fazal Bahardeen, urged South Africa to do more to market itself as a Muslim-friendly destination.  Muslim tourists were becoming more discerning in their choices for family travel, providing opportunities for South Africa, particularly Kwa-Zulu Natal.

The Philippines tourism board has partnered with Crescent Rating to help launch a halaal destination marketing campaign.  Philippines, which is a non Muslim country with Muslim minority, has taken a series of initiatives to create a long term infrastructure across the country in order to diversify its visitor arrivals by attracting Muslim tourists, especially from the neighbouring ASEAN region and the Middle East.  Philippines’ close proximity to the large Muslim populations of Malaysia and Indonesia, coupled with its rich diverse culture, makes the country an attractive destination for family tourists.  The Philipines authorities hold the view that the impetus in the development of the Halaal industry is economic rather than just cultural since increase in tourist arrival will help to spur economic growth.

Halaal Tourism destinations are catching momentum.  Several Muslim and non-Muslim countries are putting together Muslim-friendly guides and guidelines for visitors.  It is still a huge and untapped market which promises lots of opportunity to meet the needs and enhance the travel experiences of Muslim travelers.

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