We are long away from the time where everyone stayed in their country. Planes, cars and ships made it easy and affordable for people to travel from one country to another. Also for Muslims (yes, because Muslims are humans too).
I’m sure that a lot of Muslims will agree that travelling to an unknown country isn’t always easy. Questions like food, prayer and activities can make you doubt before booking your trip. There is a new trend however: a lot of Muslims are more interested in travelling beyond the typical Hajj and Umrah trips to Saudi Arabia.
Last year, Muslims spent an estimated US$126.1 billion on international travel, making up 12.3% of all international travel, according to a report on Muslim travel released jointly by consultancy DinarStandard. The study also predicts that this number will be increasing in the next 4 years.
Some travel agencies understood this and made attempts to meet the needs of these observant Muslims and now provide ‘Halal tourism’.
What is Halal tourism?
Halal tourism can be numerous things. For example Halal tourism is an alcohol free environment. But this can also mean that the hotels and the beaches are separated. Turkey is one of the first countries providing halal hotels for Muslims.
This looks like nothing special but a lot of Mvslim countries don’t even have this kind of hotels.
Only Muslim countries?
While Muslims engaging in international travel hail from both Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority countries, their top three destinations are Malaysia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. But not only Muslim countries are planning to provide halal tourism to Muslims. Japan for example saw that Muslims (mostly of Indonesia and Malaysia) played a big role in the booming economy of the country.
Japan has set as goal to provide a nice travel experience for Muslims in Japan.
For example, Aichi Prefecture in central Japan recently published a Japanese-language Muslim Hospitality Handbook to teach the Japanese how they should behave when Muslim customers enter their shops.
This book with cartoon illustrations covers a lot of ground in its 15 pages – outlining basic Muslim beliefs and global demographics, common difficulties that Muslims face when visiting Japan, the facilities that Muslims need in order to pray, the locations of the local mosques, the food Muslims can eat, and wi-fi services that Muslims visiting Japan might find helpful. Even a list of halal restaurants are made available for Muslims.
Even some Japanese travel agencies offer special programmes aimed specifically at Muslim travellers. They provide offers like a one-day Tokyo Tour for Muslim Tourists. Hashimoto designed this special tour package for Muslims, which includes the standard tourist venues, such as the Tsukiji fish market, the Hamarikyu gardens, and the trendy shopping districts of Harajuku and Shibuya, but also lunch at a halal restaurant and mosque visits for midday and early afternoon prayers.
London-based Islamic Travels specializes in immersion tours that include seeing historic and religious sites, as well as having a halal dinner with a local family. ￼
Other European countries are slowing emerging as halal tourism players, such as Spain and Bosnia. It is expected that in a few years, halal hotels in Europe will no longer be a paradox.