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Over time, tourism has developed and new trends have emerged in the industry. One of these trends has been halal tourism which is a virtually new concept that seeks to create holiday destinations and vacation for the Muslim counterparts under strict principles of the shariah law. Despite the devastating effects of the September 11th attacks on the tourism industry to many countries, this has not been the case in the Arab world. This is due to the fact that many Muslims and Arabs resorted to Muslim favorable nations for holidays, for fear of scrutiny and discrimination in the European countries. As a result, countries in the Middle East and Asia like Turkey and Malaysia have becoming hot spots for halal tourism. The current report is an attempt to evaluate the concept of Halal tourism and its relevance, coupled with its effects, both positive and negative, as a form of business. To do so, the report shall endevours to synthesize various journal articles on Halal tourism.
Al-Hamarneh and Steiner (2008) have explored hotels in Malaysia as a site for Halal tourism. According to the authors, Halal tourism is an aspect under the Islamic law and is categorized to include halal food, halal activities and airlines and the subsequent compliant hotels, especially in regards to the shariah law (Al-Hamarneh & Steiner, 2008). In a bid to maintain the Halal status by the hotels numerous challenges and opportunities have emerged in the Malaysian tourism sector. It is therefore due to this concern that the research by Al-Hamarneh and Steiner (2008) was conducted. The number of tourists arriving in Malaysia is mainly from the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Turkey (World Tourism Organization, 2010). In terms of opportunities related to Halal tourism, there is great potential in the tourism industry. It is estimated that there are approximately 1.57 billion Muslims in over 100 countries all over the world, which is about 23% of the total population in the world (Razalli, Abdullah & Hassan, 2010). Therefore, the application of the Halal concept not only applies to the food industry but to other sectors like the manufacturing industry. In regards to Malaysia, Halal tourism has been the major economic booster in terms of creation of wealth.
Although the September 11th attacks negatively affected the tourism industry, this has not been the case in the Arab countries, which is due to the fact that most Muslim and Islamic tourists are avoiding Europe and North America as tourist destinations, and instead resorting to Muslim–friendly countries like Malaysia for their visits. In the Islamic view, they prefer to tour regions/countries where their spiritual growth could be impacted upon by visiting spiritual places. In these aspect therefore, Malaysia is a vital place as it harbors spiritual prayer places and is the home of both halal beverages and foods. Islamic hotels in Malaysia can be described as having complied with the shariah law. This can be translated to mean that the hotel serves no alcoholic beverages at all, has a staff of only Muslims and positions the bed and toilets in the direction towards Mecca. It also emphasizes that male and female counterparts have different recreational facilities, with female only floors and a strict dress code for the women, among others (Laderlah et al., 2011).
In relation to establishing shariah compliant hotels, it is essential that the service providers seek to do so through niche marketing, where they simply develop the status of their hotels to meet the standards of the shariah law and to be more conducive for the Muslim hoteliers, instead of targeting the general public as a whole (Laderlah et al., 2011). A good example is the Almulla Hospitality in Dubai which generally seeks to give comfort to Muslim hoteliers and has associated its services with a healthy living lifestyle. However, Razzalli (2008) states that the implementation of Islamic hotels could pose to be quite a challenge in the sense that it is quite difficult to prove that there will be enough Muslim hoteliers that would substantially necessitate the development of facilities only for them. Secondly, in most hotels, alcohol has seemed to be the main source of attraction and therefore, restricting it could lead to low sales.
Even though the Middle East is richly endowed with great tourist sites and good cultural endowment, it is quite surprising to note that it hardly attracts many domestic tourists, with the total percentage of Arabs that would in fact consider international tourism adding up to about 3% (Razalli et al., 2010). Most of the visiting tourists mainly originate from European countries. However, after the September 11th attack, many Muslims and Arabs discovered the Middle East to be an ideal tourist destination. This is because they feared to be back lashed upon while in the European destinations and preferred to stay home and tour. After the attacks, most Arab countries have noted an increase in the level of tourists especially from the Persian Gulf. This is due to the redirection and expansion of intraregional flows by the Arab tourists. The number of Iraq nationals that visited Syria during that period was about 68%, with an addition of about 40% of tourists from Qatar and 22% from Kuwait and another 12% from Yemen. The United States experienced a drop in the number of Arab tourists visiting the region by about 50% while those visiting Europe declined by about 30% (World Tourism Global Trends Reports, 2009).
However, The Jordan area witnessed a significant increase in the number of Arab tourists, with about 25% of the visitors originating from the Middle East and about 22.5% consisting of Egyptian nationals. This move is however supported by Al-Hamarneh and Steiner (2004), who note that due to the fact that those alleged to have propagated the September 11th attack were from Muslim and Arab origin, this led to development of racist attitudes towards the same from the western societies.
Moreover, the Arab destinations were easy and cheap to access as they were easily accessible by land (Bhuiyan et al., 2011). It is through the above global awakening that the Arab countries saw the need to develop intra regional tourism among them and sought to lay down strategies to ensure its success. It is therefore under this platform that the Arab league saw the need to highlight the importance investing in intraregional tourism as a way of ensuring growth in tourism. The There is also the issue of opening up air transport routes and infrastructures like roads so as to boost intraregional transport, and by boosting sea transport so as to join the Arab countries to one another. Another recommendation would be to thoroughly market Arab countries in relation to tourism, through the Arab media propagating the broadcast of positive media.
In Turkey, just like in other Muslim countries, any goods or services that have been designed according to the principles of Islam to meet the tourist industry are part of Halal tourism. Due to the political stability in the country, Turkey has been able to attract a wide number of tourists especially in 2010. Duman (2011) states that since AKP took over the government under the leadership of Tayyip Erdogan, the number of tourist hotels applying Halal concept significantly increased from about 5 to 39 in total. However, Halal tourism in Turkey has increased due to the economic and political progress of most of the conservative Muslims who live in Turkey. The ministry of culture and tourism deals with the standardization and certification of the tourism enterprise. Therefore, in order to operate the halal concept in hotels, it is very necessary to obey all the legal requirements and directives that have been stipulated by the ministry. These are among others not to operate discotheques or sell alcoholic beverages in the bars, or use the mentioned rooms’ as prayer rooms (Kalesar, 2010).
In Turkey, there are two types of halal tourist resorts. The first type is the seaside facilities. Even though this concept has been in existence for a longer period of time, they represent a fairly new concept in Turkey, a trend that is immensely gaining popularity (Duman, 2011. The other type of Halal tourism that Turkey is practicing is the hot spa tourism which unlike the sea side tourism is very old and has been used by turkey in the service industry especially in the tourism sector. In turkey, an approximate of about 51 states promotes this kind of halal tourism and regards it as part of their potential (Duman, 2011). In the Turkish tourism industry, Halal tourism is majorly categorized into three where the first category is compromised of Turkish nationals who live and work in the European countries, most of whom constitute a bigger percentage of the market share for this type of tourism. The second type of category is the middle class upscale customers who are very conservative Muslims and therefore have very conservative Islamic lifestyles. The third type of market for the Turkish Halal tourism sector is the foreign Muslims who generally comprise of nationals from countries like middle and eastern regions. This is because the Turkish Halal products have generally been a preference for most of the Muslims from other countries.
On the other hand, despite the boom in the Turkish Halal tourism sector, various consumer surveys have reflected a negative effect. This is because most of the customers complain about poor service and high prices for the products. They also complain of having to share the beaches with the non-Muslims and also having to share the facilities of the hotels with other non-Muslims, which to them is not halal compliant or shariah compliant. The Turkish tourism industry has also gone a notch further in advertising for halal tourism in the area by using specific terminology to describe the services they offer. For example, Kaplicalar to describe the availability of hot spas, Dini oteller, used to describe religious hotels, and so on.
It is interesting to note that there is limited tourism interest in most Muslim dominated countries, with the state of socioeconomic underdevelopment being a major setback. Most Muslim countries are poor despite the fact that they are the major oil producers. The environment in most Muslim countries has been constantly characterized by poverty and destitution, and is thus not an attraction to international tourists. However, there have been similar problems arising in all the major halal destinations (Duman, 2011). A major complaint in the Muslim countries is usually the issue of poor access and infrastructural underdevelopment, and is actually a general problem as related to Muslim destinations. This problem is however accelerated by the fact that there is limited capital and unskilled labor to foster developments. However, the issue could be easily solved by bringing in foreign expatriates in the country. Another point to note would be the fact that most Muslim countries have a perceived negative image. Moreover, there has been limited or poor promotion of tourism agreements among the Muslim states. This is because most of the agreements conferred rarely go past the declaration stage. Examples of such agreements have happened in Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey.
Islamic countries are maximizing on tourism as the major market, with Malaysia benefiting from it immensely, due to the fact that it is the 2nd largest foreign exchange earner for the country’s economy (Bhuiyan et al., 2011). Even though Malaysia is not purely a Muslim country, it is considered so because majority of the population comprise of Muslims. Tourism in Malaysia can be categorized into three namely, religious tourism, spiritual tourism, and cultural tourism. Under the religious tourism concept, Malaysia has many mosques that act as an attraction for tourists who are Muslims. Under the spiritual tourism concept, it is assumed that Muslims from other countries may visit Malaysia with the sole purpose of developing their own spiritual growth. Due to the diversity in the Malaysian, many Muslims tend to prefer it as a holiday destination. This is especially due to the fact that the holiday packages offered in Malaysia are appealing to the Islam community and also due to availability of Halal products in the market, just like in the Middle East and Turkey.
The emergence of Crescent Tour Company in 2009 is seen as an attempt to drive the concept of Halal tourism to the next level. The company is selling the idea of halal holidays to Britons, which adhere and operate under strict Islamic principles. Being that the company is a tour company, its vision is to offer high quality halal holidays, with a wide range of destinations, but operating extensively in Turkey. In order to ensure that the customers of the company enjoy high quality Halal destinations, the company conducts tours and visits to their holiday locations to ensure that the services they are offering are up to standard (Crescent Tours, 2012). Being an Islamic based holiday tour company, most of the customers are majorly of the Muslim origin mostly from Europe countries like the United Kingdom and France. However, Muslims from North Africa, North America and the Middle East are also embracing the company’s concept.
There are mainly three holiday types that the tour company strives to offer. They include luxury private villas, which are available in the Mediterranean, heritage tours commonly found in Istanbul and sun and beach resorts. A client therefore makes a booking depending on one of the three types of holiday they would like to vacation at. Services at the onsite facilities are in total compliance with shariah law and therefore alcohol is totally restricted, with facilities separated to suit the needs of both men and women privately, without the women having to expose themselves to men who are not their husbands (Suleaman, 2010). Since one of the popular areas in terms of destination tours and cultural values is Turkey, Crescent Tours seeks to conduct heritage tours to the country, with the tourists visiting sites like the Topkapi palace of sultans and the amazing views of Hagia Sophia.With the beginning of the year, crescent tour company is seeking to be best among other global brands in the discovery of luxury halal holidays, with new and exciting destinations but with affordable prices, facilitated through an easy online booking system.
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It would be ideal to state that based on the evidence above, Halal tourism is the new global trend in the Arab countries and in the Muslim world. From the above context, it is evidently proved that most Arab countries have embraced the idea and the turnover is so far favorable with most of the concepts being similar in most of the countries like Middle East, Turkey, Malaysia and so on. It is also wise to state that the September 11th attacks led to the discovery of this sector in one way or another, with most of the Muslim people opting to visit Muslim friendly countries other than Europe and other global parts. Gradually, the concept of Halal foods, hotels and destinations has gained recognition and is becoming an increasingly high source of foreign exchange for the Arab nations.
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Bhuiyan, A. H., Siwar, C., Ismail, S. M. & Islam, R. (2011). Potentials of Islamic Tourism: A Case Study of Malaysia on East Coast Economic Region. Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 5(6), 1333-1340.
Crescent Tours. (2012). About Us. Web.
Duman, T. (2011). Value of Islamic Tourism Offering: Perspectives from the Turkish Experience. Web.
Kalesar, M. I. (2010). Developing Arab-Islamic Tourism in the Middle East: an economic benefit or a cultural seclusion? International Politics, 3(5), 1-32.
Laderlah, S. A., Ab Rahman, S., Awang, K& Che Man Y. (2011). A Study on Islamic Tourism: A Malaysian Experience. Web.
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