The World Islamic Tourism Mart (WITM) conference in Jakarta on 24 October 2014, Photo: MINA

Islamic tourism (Indonesia calls it Sharia tourism)  is a subcategory of religious tourism which is geared towards Muslim families who abide by  Islamic rules, or it is said as Muslim friendly tourism.

The categorization of tourism related goods and services that are designed, produced, and presented to the markets could be considered under Islamic or Halal tourism. Such use of terminology is already common in daily usage for example halal trips, hotels, airlines, food etc. The concept of Halal, meaning permissible in Arabic, is not just being applied to food, but it includes any Shari’ah compliant products ranging from bank dealings to cosmetics, vaccines and in this case, tourism. This means offering tour packages and destinations that are particularly designed to cater Muslim needs. As such, countries around the world should start tapping into the unexploited Islamic tourism market by ensuring that Muslim travellers are provided with maximum convenience during their trip and are able to practice religious obligations while on holiday.

Japan nowadays put huge concern on this issue, as they set Muslim friendly tour packages recently. For an example, Miyako International Tourist co.,Ltd is one of the few travel agents in Japan offering inbound halal tourism. “We understand the concern of Muslim travelers regarding halal food, praying facilities and all other aspects that fulfill our religious belief,” It said in a statement.

Not only Japan, Russia has seen the potential of halal tourism and attracts many Russian-speaking Muslims and tries to promote halal products in every annual fairs in the country, followed by China, French, Turkey, UEA, and any other parts of the countries who starts to realize the important of Muslim travelers.

A new ground-breaking study, ‘Global Muslim Lifestyle Travel Market: Landscape & Consumer Needs,’ shows that Muslim tourists globally represent a major niche market worth $126.1 billion in 2011 growing at a 4.8% through 2020, compared to global average of 3.8%. In a challenging global economic environment, the Study highlights how airlines, tourism destinations, and hotels/resorts can benefit by engaging with a market that has a young demographic, is growing in affluence, and is increasingly asserting its unique needs on the tourism industry.

The Study has been released by DinarStandard, a New York based marketing research and advisory firm focused on the Muslim markets & Crescentrating, pioneer in the development of Halal-friendly travel. It  estimates that the global Muslim tourism market of $126.1 billion in outbound expenditure is 12.3% of the total global outbound tourism expenditure in 2011. The Muslim tourist spending is set to grow to $192 Billion by 2020 representing 13.4% of the global expenditure. Comparatively, this Muslim tourism market as a whole is larger than the largest spending tourist market in the world – Germany – and almost twice that of China’s in 2011.

And for that, in the sidelines of the World Islamic Tourism Mart (WITM) conference in Jakarta on 24 October 2014, Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)’s reporter Rina Asrina interviewed the Chairman of WITM Malaysian Dato’ Mohamad Khalid Harun.  Here’s the following interview:

The Chairman of WITM Malaysian Dato’ Mohamad Khalid Harun. Photo: MINA

MINA: What is the meaning of Islamic tourism for you?

Dato’ Mohamad: Islam is the religion, while the Islamic is the way of life where the people who embrace it (Islam) based on  its disciplines and what you believe in it.  Especially, when you are travelling  and you are hungry what you see first in your destination is meals, does the food good (halal based on Islam) for us to eat.  And  when there’s  a place provides us this, then yes this is the place we’re looking for,  and of course we will looking for this place.  That’s one of the challenges faced by Muslim travelers around the world.

MINA: Would this kind of conference promote this issue?

Dato’ Mohamad: Yes, definetly, the world is looking at Indonesia as a hub of Islamic tourism. The first conference of it is in Kuala Lumpur, now we’d like to move this conference to other part of the world, so looking at Indonesia as a heavily populated Muslin, looking at Jakarta and other cities, I think it’s the right time for WITM based in Jakarta or other part of provinces.

MINA:  Do you think Islamic Tourism would help in solving Islamophobe issues faced by Muslim? How do you relate it?

Dato’ Mohamad: Yes, by continuing having conference like this, and sharing each other, this is something different.  When it is applied, people wont see the same again as what they see in mainstream media, cause Halal and Islamic tourism benefits not only Muslim but other people from  other faith. Cause when we talk about Halal food, it means healthy one.  Why are you offering this? So the Muslim countries benefited from each other.

MINA: What should be done to promote this issue?

Dato’ Mohamad: We should look into it seriously and look that it has major income, and look at what the Muslim want when they’re travelling, Islam promote safety and security so it’s what need to be our top of the list to promote Islamic tourism.  Look at when we travelling to Japan, Japan has Halal restaurants, Islamic hospitality places,  eventhough it’s not Muslim countries.

MINA:  How do you promote this issue for non Muslim countries?

Dato’ Mohamad: There are a lot of non Muslim countries who has a lots Muslim population, look at Japan, China, and every other places, we come and visit them and tell them about the advantage of it, so they have better knowledge and opportunities to increase their tourism, and  Muslim travelers are many. And we challenge them how do you able enough to provide the Islamic packages for Muslim travelers.(L/R04/R03)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)