So, What is Halal Tourism, Anyway?
The word Halal is Arabic and means ‘permissible for Muslims’. Typically used for food but covers all activities of daily life in accordance to the Islamic Law. That said, halal tourism is seen as tourism that is more aligned with Islamic Law and traditions, in spite of the common ‘pitfalls’ that may lie in the contemporary holiday lifestyle.
Why is ‘halal tourism’ so important for the global tourism industry, though? The numbers speak for themselves. According to DinarStandard, Muslim tourists spent, $137 billion (excluding the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia) in 2012, and by 2020, this figure is expected to exceed $180 billion. In Britain alone, Muslim tourists spent 21 billion pounds last year and most were inbound tourists from the Middle East.
But what makes Muslim tourists differ from the rest?
As Islam is not just a religion but also a way of living, it is hard or even unthinkable for some Muslims to give up their Islamic path for the sake of relaxation, or even slightly ‘loosen up’. Even though Muslims want to truly experience different cultures and environments when on holiday, there are circumstances in contradiction with their faith.
Not all Muslims are the same, of course. They differ in the way they exercise their religion and there are gradations in how strict they are with it. Some do not care if others beside them consume alcohol, or if their hotel has no prayer room, or if their food is not halal. However, even a moderate Muslim will prefer to go somewhere that will have ‘halal tourism’ aspects.
The need to meet the criteria of this significant group of tourists brought about the term ‘halal tourism’, which is nowadays rising as a niche within the broader travel industry. One of the challenges now for tourism professionals is to create a single, global halal certification system, which will encourage the expansion of the halal tourism industry as a whole.
The rapid growth of the halal tourism industry not only results in the appearance of ‘Muslim-friendly’ or halal friendly hotels, but also of specialised travel agencies as well as DMCs (Destination Management Companies) that offer halal holiday packages. Another phenomenon is the emergence of specialised booking aggregators, the largest of these being HalalBooking.com, which offers a specialised search and booking service for online consumers looking to book their halal trip or halal vacations package via a reliable source in multiple languages and with the widest portfolio of properties. Furthermore, a number of consultancy firms have appeared that help companies to adapt to Muslim holidays or halal holidays.
Apart from Britain and France that traditionally have relations with Muslim countries; the rising power in halal tourism is Spain. Indicatively, the number of Saudis visiting Spain in 2013 was 85% higher than in 2012. The number Algerian tourists increased by 30%, Turkish by 57% and Indonesians tripled in the last two years. Another important fact recorded by the Spaniards and with variations happening elsewhere, is that Muslim travellers belong to what we call ‘premium tourism’. While in Spain, the average spent by a tourist amounts to 980 euros, for the average Saudi this number is 2,287 euros, the Egyptian 1,703 euros, Turks 1,501 euros and Algerians 1,340 euros.
After these statistics, it is almost certain that soon the menus in Spanish restaurants will include paella with halal meat.