Despite the passing of the summer, tourist activities continue. This is because each season promises exciting feelings and opportunities in many tourist destinations worldwide. People from many parts of the world continue to travel for their leisure to enjoy themselves or to learn first-hand about new places and cultures. With the growing tourism activities across the globe, a trend has emerged within the industry that aims to accommodate the interests and comforts of the increasing number of Muslim tourists, known as Halal tourism.
Halal tourism refers to activities that are suited to Islamic principles, with the intention of engaging more Muslims in the tourism industry. However, as the initiative is still relatively new, it has only been implemented in a few parts of the world. In fact, many tourist providers seem to have a limited idea or even confusion concerning the initiative. Some even still relate Halal tourism only to Halal foods and non-alcoholic beverages. In reality, however, Halal tourism includes Halal activities, Halal hotels, as well as being held in sites that are equipped with facilities in which Muslims can worship.
Some examples of Halal tourism include the availability of places of worships in shopping centres and major tourism facilities. In the UK alone, this phenomenon is increasingly apparent. For example, prayer rooms can be found at Trafford Centre, Manchester Airport, Heathrow Airport, and other places. Other examples are hotels that serve Halal foods and have separate swimming pools and spa facilities for men and women. Simultaneously, there has been a growing number of flights serving Halal foods and beverages, having prayer spaces, announcing prayer schedules, and incorporating religious programmes into tourism activity packages.
To promote the initiative, several organisations and tourist operators have arranged summits or conferences concerning Halal tourism; for example, the Halal Tourism Conference in Spain in 2014, World Halal Summit 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, World Halal and Tourism Summit 2015 in Abu Dhabi, and Halal Tourism Congress in Eindhoven earlier this year. These efforts have helped boost the number of Halal hotels, restaurants, as well as tourism packages in many parts of the world. Not only in Muslim-majority countries like Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the GCC, but also in countries where Muslims are the minority, such as Spain and Thailand.
Furthermore, not only offering Halal resorts and hotels to support Halal tourism, a number of places have begun promoting themselves as Halal tourism destinations. Indonesia is a prime example in which the Tourism Ministry has formally announced three provinces as Halal tourism destinations, including Aceh, West Sumatra, and West Nusa Tenggara. In addition to its beautiful scenery, these three areas are known as regions that uphold strong Islamic culture and values.
With this growing phenomenon, combined with the increasing number of Muslim tourists around the world, some non-Muslim countries have also embarked on various strategies to profit from this initiative. In Japan, for instance, prayer rooms are starting to be provided at major airports, and some restaurants are now serving Halal food. Some chain restaurants across the UK, such as KFC, Subway, and Nandos, also offer Halal foods to their Muslim customers. Meanwhile, Thailand's Tourism Authority has launched a Muslim tourist application called Thailand Muslim Friendly. This can be downloaded via the Apple Store and Google Play to help Muslim travelers locate Halal restaurants and hotels, as well as prayer rooms in the country they are visiting.
The growth of Halal tourism can be attributed to several obvious reasons. First, the growing worldwide Muslim population increases the number of Muslim tourists, thus providing a considerable advantage for many tourist destinations. Secondly, Mohammed Battour, a researcher of Halal tourism, believes that, recently, Muslims have become increasingly sensitive to consume foods and to use services that adhere to Islamic principles. His research also shows that Muslim tourists are becoming more aware of choosing Halal options for their needs.
Furthermore, the increasing amount of income for the non-Muslim countries with the growing Muslim tourists increases the importance of the Halal tourism. For example, while they are not the highest visitors to the UK, Visit Britain reported that tourists from Middle East countries are the biggest spenders in the UK. Another report also states that tourists from Saudi Arabia spend the most when they are on vacation abroad. Simultaneously, Euromonitor International estimates that the sales of Halal foods are growing in Europe along with the increasing number of Muslim tourists travelling to European territory.
It is important to note that Halal tourism is not aimed to alienate Muslim tourists from general tourism activities, or otherwise, to alienate non-Muslim visitors in certain tourists destinations. Rather, it seeks to provide opportunities and convenience for Muslim tourists to perform their religious duties while travelling or enjoying their leisure time. In fact, the concept of Halal tourism could also help non-Muslim visitors, including keeping children away from alcohol when they are on vacation.
The Halal tourism initiative is also of course expected to be one of the means for non-Muslims to see and learn about the true teachings of Islam. This means Muslim travellers can travel comfortably, while non-Muslim travellers can discover the true meaning of Islam.
This piece is co-authored with Munasprianto Ramli, a Ph.D scholar at the University of Manchester.