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Halal Tourism in a Muslim Country: What is Next?

The marketing of Halal tourism can be complex due to the fact that non-Muslim tourists and Muslim tourists react differently to it. The basic premise is non-Muslims perceive destinations in some Islamic countries as different from ‘Western’ destinations. The contemporary image of destinations in countries where Islam is the main religion is still closely associated with traditional Islamic behavioural norms as opposed to traditional norms in Western societies. Halal tourism activities could be seen as constraints to tourism destination development. These constraints are critical and can act as major challenges to tourism planning and marketing. Therefore, Muslim tourism destinations may have to develop and implement strategies to overcome these perceived constraints. The main challenge for Islamic destinations is balancing between catering to non-Muslim tourists and satisfying their needs without coming into conflict with Islamic teachings. For example, in Sharia-compliant hotels, alcohol beverages are prohibited. In Islamic-resorts, sometimes beaches are separated by gender. As a result tourists from non-Muslim countries where such restrictions are applied may not travel to a destination that practices Halal tourism though exceptions may occur if the beliefs and teachings are shared.

The products and services is not exclusive and promoted for Muslim market only. There are some spheres of Halal hospitality where non-Muslims can be viewed as potential market segments. Thus, the number of Shari’a compliant hotels and Muslim friendly hotels are growing in the Halal tourism market and can be found in some Muslim and non-Muslim destinations. For example, Muslim friendly hotels deliver Muslim guests with all services that comply with Islamic teachings such as Qibla Direction, prayer mats, Halal food, alcohol-free beverages, and prayers room with the call for prayers. Segregated accommodation are applied in terms of ‘Women only-floor’ and ‘family only-floor’ for the purpose of security and privacy. This concept is also offered in some western hotels such as the Georgian Court Hotel in Vancouve. Segregation concept is also applied in beaches and swimming pools.

To overcome this conflict, tourism products and services providers should find innovative solutions that satisfy non-Muslim tourists. Furthermore, tourism operators should educate non-Muslim tourists about what Halal tourism rules are. Some non-Muslim tourists may consider Muslim friendly hotels as an option if the price is reasonable. This could be an opportunity for this type of hotel to reach out to this specific category of tourists, i.e. those who seek to experience Muslim culture and experience. Customization should be applied for all guests. Tourism marketers should utilize the emerging technologies. For example, innovative products should be created and applied to all tourists so the discrimination would not be noticed in hotel room. For example, the call for prayer early morning should be avoided for non-Muslim guests. Thus, non-Muslim tourists could try the Halal tourism experience, or at least purchase certain types of Halal products and services. The countries with strong Islamic norms and values can be successfully promoted as travel destinations to non-Muslim tourists who are attracted to Islamic culture and Halal hospitality. Furthermore, the majority of non-Muslim tourists may not be happy with the banning of alcoholic beverages. Here again, innovative solution should be applied to solve this situation such as providing similar beverages without alcohol or replacing them with non-alcoholic juice and tea. The more innovative the alternatives that comply with Shari’a, the more support for tourism development in the Halal tourism market. Some non-Muslim tourists could accept to consume Halal food as long as the taste is fine. This could be used as a promotional tool to attract non-Muslim tourists. Based on the fact that non-Muslim tourists are willing to try Halal tourism experience, or at least purchase certain types of Halal products and services. It is hoped that Halal tourism can increase the likelihood of its selection by marketing its ability to meet the requirements that non-Muslim tourists segments consider important.