Muslim Traveller, Exclusive Feature,
By Maj Hussain, Director Halal Incorp
Manchester: The Muslim Traveller; The digital era has ushered in the dawn of a new age. As technology has advanced economies have also developed alongside various business sectors. Halal travel is the rising buzzword in the travel and tourism market over the last few years. This has led to new innovative concepts and initiatives where the first global Halal retreat was developed to amalgamate spirituality and personal development geared towards the urban Muslim traveller.
Retreats are now taking place all over the world developed by a variety of organisations one of which is called Productive Muslim which helps individuals with motivational support helping people increase their productivity and reaching life aspirations within an Islamic context.
Retreats are delivered over a several day periods aiming to help improve the lives of people and develop a healthier alternative to normal fast pace city living. Halal retreats aspire to cater for the needs of entrepreneurs, students and professionals relating to faith based perspectives.
One example of a retreat which was held two years ago is the Productive Muslim retreat which was designed and brought to fruition through a partnership between HalalTrip and Productive Muslim. There was high demand particularly from young Muslims wanting an external place to relax and a stress free environment away from their normal surroundings. The retreat was hosted in Sri Lanka in South Asia & took place from November 19th to the 25th at Tangalle, Sri Lanka in 2016. The week long retreat allowed participants to experience amazing accommodation at the 5* Anantara Tangalle Beach Resort.
The Rise Of Muslim Traveller Blogs
The genre of Halal travel is now well and truly at the forefront of the business travel space. The Muslim traveller market has risen to such economic values that it cannot be ignored by the mainstream. Hence we have seen a growing number of businesses and services run by non Muslim entities now catering for the Halal travel sector. This is happening in increments and 2018 is testament to this.
With Halal travel being featured at major conferences worldwide, bloggers have also contributed to the rise of Halal travel and helping wider society better understand what this revolves around. Muslim Travel Girl is one such website which showcases all the best in Halal travel, recommended places to visit, Muslim friendly travel, tips and tricks and all round great travel advice. This business is spearheaded by the spirited Muslimah entrepreneur Elena Nikolova. Elena created Muslim Travel Girl back in 2013 and has gone from strength to strength over the last five years featuring in global conferences and events such as the Global Islamic Economy Summit. Elena has travelled the world at very little expense using here renowned skills an knowledge around travel hacks.
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The Muslim Traveller Phenomenon Hits Africa
The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) stated it has been developing a strategy to target the Halal travel sector over the last few years in order to attract the Muslim traveller market. The global Halal Travel sector is currently big business and rising year upon year. This economic opportunity has allowed Kenya an East African country to consider and begin developing Halal orientated products and services. The KTB is also making an active effort to identify cultural, religious, seasonal celebrations and activities related to Islamic culture to showcase these events to potential tourists.
Hotel owners and accommodation providers in Kenya have also expressed their flexibility to meet the needs of Muslim travellers by providing Halal food options in hotels and restaurants. There is already capacity for this as Kenya has a sizeable native Muslim community. Kenya has already hosted major expos such as the ‘World Halal Exhibition’. Therefore the Kenyan authorities already have experience of hosting and catering for Muslim communities.
Malaysia is the most popular destination for Halal travel & tourism. Malaysia once again came first in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) line up for top Halal travel destinations in 2016. Second in this list was the European country of Turkey followed by UAE, Saudi Arabia and then Qatar. Kenya already has some good infrastructure and facilities which have mainly been targeted at and developed for European tourists and visitors. This same infrastructure can be enhanced or modified to meet the needs of Muslim travellers to the African nation.
As disposable income is rising within Muslim communities there is a greater aspiration for more travel and the desire to visit international tourist havens. Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya and has a population of over one million people. It is a coastal city which is well positioned to enhance a tourist drive targeting the Halal travel sector. Kenya in addition to this also has a range of wildlife, cuisine, history, culture and activities which can all be advertised and showcased to attract a wider segment of Muslim travellers. Attracting Halal tourism will help enhance the economic prosperity of Kenya and boost GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
East Asian Countries Pursue The Muslim Traveller Market Which Is Estimated To Spend $157 Billion By 2020
Seoul Sees A Rise In Number Of 5* Hotels Offering Halal Food To Meet The Needs of Muslim Traveller Market
Over the last couple of years South Korea has realised the potential of the Halal sector. Although the country does not have large numbers of Muslim inhabitants this trend has incrementally changed. There are now more Muslim tourists than ever before visiting cities such as Seoul. There has also been a rise in native Koreans accepting the Islamic faith and small increases in Muslim students and workers moving to the country. With Halal travel on the rise an increasing number of 5* hotels in Seoul are now providing options for Halal food to cater for the needs of Muslim travellers in particular as well as attracting more customers and guests from Islamic backgrounds.
The travel and tourism arenas in South Korea have been exploring avenues to cater for the growing Halal sector which has been rising due to a variety of reasons such as the increasing popularity of Korean music and Middle Eastern medical tourists. The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) previously issued a Halal guidebook. The guidebook showcases all the Halal amenities and facilities in the region. The guidebook mentions all the restaurants in the Plaza Hotel and Lotte Hotel that are categorized as “Muslim traveller friendly restaurants.”
One prestigious Korean entity the Plaza Hotel, now provides a Holy Quran for the daily prayers of Muslim guests. There has also been a reported rise of Muslim guests of around 10% over the last few years. South Korea is an East Asian country and is close by to other countries in the region such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Both these countries have large Muslim communities with Indonesia having the most Muslim inhabitants in the world. This demograph creates an opportunity for Korean businesses to attract more Muslim tourists to enhance the local economy.
Japan Targets Halal Travel Sector & The Muslim Traveller
Japan is a popular country in the Far East in the same region as Seoul & has been developing plans and systems to attract a larger segment of tourists from Muslim backgrounds in recent times. The Japanese government is adamant that its policies allow easier access for tourists from the Islamic world to visit its nation. The government has relaxed visa regulations for several Middle Eastern countries which include the UAE and Jordan in 2016.
The governmental push to attract travellers from the Middle East has also meant that there is a similar trend emerging across the country. There has been an increase in restaurants serving Halal orientated food across the country. Halal is an Arabic term used meaning ‘permissible’ often referring to food such as meat but not restricted to this. The term Halal can also be used for other aspects of life such as travel, clothing, drinks, and pharmaceuticals amongst other areas.
The Middle Eastern region is a target area for many countries looking to boost the attractiveness of Halal tourism within their localities. However there are other countries in the region closer to Japan where many tourists are travelling from. Countries with high Muslim populations within the region such as Malaysia are important for Japan as more Muslim travellers are coming from them helping boost the Japanese economy. There are now more than 100,000 tourists coming from Malaysia and Indonesia annually to Japan as cited by Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) a couple of years ago.
Japan is due to host the 2020 Olympics and as part of this major global sports event aims to attract one million Muslim tourists a year. CrescentRating a leading organisation in the Halal travel sector scored Japan higher in their Muslim Friendly Halal Travel Index in comparison to previous years as Islamic orientated products and services have increased in availability throughout Japan.
Indonesian City Padang Aims To Boost Halal Travel Eco-System
Halal travel and tourism are becoming more popular than ever before. Indonesia was recognised as a destination for Halal travel and the Muslim traveller market after several successful accolades at the World Halal Tourism Awards held in 2016. One of the cities in West Sumatra, Padang has been working on creating infrastructure to develop a world class Halal travel eco-system which will help attract travellers from all over the globe to visit the East Asian nation.
Indonesia is home to the largest Muslim community worldwide with over 200 million people stating their faith as Islam. The Mayor of Padang also realised the potential available to enhance the economy of the Indonesian nation. The Mayor was keen to focus on the importance of Halal standards and facilities. He has stated in the past it is important to have Halal certified restaurants and hotels to meet the needs of the Muslim traveller market. There are around 48 Halal restaurants in the city currently.
The Indonesian government has also made active efforts to develop its Halal industry. Indonesia has been working collaboratively with business entities and investors from the Gulf region. Saudi Arabian and Qatari business representatives have visited Indonesia in recent years to explore and discuss opportunities in the Halal travel sector. In addition to interest for business development from Gulf based countries other countries in the nearby region such as Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia are also interested in working together with the Indonesian government in order to advance the Islamic economy across the wider region.
Prestigious Bangkok Halal Orientated Hotel A Hit With Muslim Travellers
Thailand in recent years has become an ever increasingly popular destination for Halal travel and tourism as well as enticing the Muslim traveller market. Bangkok is now the ‘talk of the town’ locally and further afield. Thailand has 6 million Muslims living in the country, just over 600,000 Muslim travellers were estimated to have visited Thailand in 2015 mainly coming from the Gulf and wider Middle East region.
The TravelImpact Newswire reported: “As of the April 2017 flight schedules, Thailand had more than 730 weekly flights from cities in 17 Muslim-majority countries, more than any other country in Asia. It also gives visa-free and/or visa-on-arrival facilities to citizens of 12 Muslim-majority countries. Visitors from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are the top average daily spenders, according to 2015 statistics published by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.”
Al Meroz started functioning in 2016 and has developed a reputation for prestige and class. The 4* Star rated hotel is by far the leading Halal centred accommodation provider in Bangkok. There are over 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide residing mainly in neighbouring Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, alongside large Muslim populations in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Therefore there is a large potential segment of Halal travel and tourism & the Muslim traveller market that Al Meroz can potentially and has been carving a niche from.
As the number of middle class Muslims rises and Muslim professionals have larger disposable incomes Halal travel is an enticing opportunity to visit different parts of the world and also being able to follow religious needs is an important combination. Hotels which provide Halal and Islamic orientated services are receiving an increase in customers from Muslim and even non-Muslim backgrounds.
The Al Meroz hotel is uniquely positioned in Thailand. Although there are a multitude of accommodation providers which are labelled Halal in Bangkok, Al Meroz is by far the most prestigious and advanced in terms of meeting customer needs and providing high quality services. Even the architecture of the Al Meroz hotel is similar to traditional mosque designs topped off with dome features. The facilities provided at the hotel include two purpose built prayer rooms and three Halal dining halls. An additional bonus is the geographical location of the high class hotel built opposite the largest mosque in the area on Ramkhamhaeng Road. Room prices vary from $116 to $1,445 per night at the Al Meroz.
With the Muslim traveller market looking for advanced experiences and tailored facilities Al Meroz is well placed to become the number one accommodation provider orientated at the Halal sector for the foreseeable future in Thailand. This is a sign of diverse and wide ranging opportunities that the global Halal sector creates and has potential to create even further.
Ikbal Hussain the founder of augmented reality app Islamic GPS spoke at the Arabian Travel Market Summit.
“Islamic GPS is the first augmented reality Islamic App which helps people find mosques and discover knowledge about islamic heritage sites in an interactive and engaging way. We enable the power for a person to become their own tour guide and learn about Islamic places to a greater depth.”
Faeez Fadhlillah, founder and CEO of Salam Standard and Tripfez, highlighted the growing importance of Muslim millennial travellers illustrated by the changing global socio-economic trends and underscored the potential pent-up demand whilst speaking at the Arabian Travel Summit, 2018 held in Dubai last month.
Muslim travellers will spend $157 billion by 2020, driven by millennial travellers and the top outbound market remains Saudi Arabia, which will grow 17 percent over the next three years alone, to reach $27.9 billion. The figures were released during Arabian Travel Market’s Global Halal Tourism Summit 2018, which was held at the Dubai World Trade Centre.