The recent article "Halal Holidays in the Sun" on BBC and comments to that article in different websites prompted me to write these few lines; since there seems to be still some mis-understanding about this "Halal Industry"".
Although consuming products and services that are Halal has always been the foremost consideration of a Muslim, the ability and the availability now of making any product and service "Halal" or "Halal friendly" has given a new impetus to the Halal conscious consumer to look for a "Halal/Halal Friendly" choice in anything they consume.
This huge transformation is just beginning to get the attention of the mainstream media and more importantly the businesses. Some of the biggest players in the Halal Food industry (estimated to be more than USD 650 billion a year now) are MNCs like Nestle and the meat industries in Australia, New Zealand and Brazil.
This trend has now gone beyond the food and the banking industries and increasingly extending to lifestyle and leisure activities; in particular the Travel and Tourism industry.
The last 10 years has seen a huge growth in Muslim travellers. We estimate the travel and tourism expenditure of Muslim travellers in 2007 / 2008 contributed to around 6% to 7 % of the total worldwide tourism expenditure. Within couple of years, this figure could reach around 10%, which would mean a USD 100 Billion a year market segment.
Many destinations are already beginning to see the potential and accommodating the unique needs of this group of travellers. This is opening up many new destinations for the Halal conscious travellers. These destinations would not have been in their travel plans otherwise. This also means that it has also opened up opportunities for the Muslims to interact with those communities. In fact, accommodating the very basic Halal friendly facilities (Halal food, prayer direction etc) in the mainstream travel industry will increase the interaction between Muslims and others, contrary to some of the comments in the BBC article.
The Travel industry has many hundred years of experience in handling the unique requirements of the different segment of travellers they wish to attract and will make the necessary adjustments to make all of their visitors comfortable. Majority of them will eventually embrace the basic "Halal friendly" requirements while still providing the services and facilities for others.
Destinations and facilities, who go beyond the basic requirements and provide Halal friendly recreational facilities, not have adult TV channels in the hotels, Alcohol free etc.. will not only cater to the Halal conscious travellers , but also to thousands of others who wish to have such a family friendly environment for their holidays.
Destinations, services, facilities etc. that will take the lead in making the adjustments necessary to make these visitors comfortable will stand to benefit both economically and socially. For those who have still not seen the potential, the business realities in time to come, will make them rethink their strategies on how to evolve to cater to this niche market of one quarter of the world's population.