Speakers at ‘Emergence of Halal Tourism’ seminar say

Time to promote Bangladesh as Muslim friendly destination

A Monitor Report 16 Apr, 2017  |    -      +
Dhaka : Speakers at a seminar on "Emergence of Halal Tourism: How Bangladesh can benefit" at Pan Pacific Sonargaon on April 1, held on the sidelines of US-Bangla Travel Mart-2017 suggested that Bangladesh tap this fast emerging tourism segment by marketing itself as a Muslim-friendly destination.

The term "Muslim friendly" is more appropriate. Majority of the people of People's Republic of Bangladesh are Muslims, they said, adding everything is Halal here, but it is time to put up signage that it is so.

Conferences on Halal tourism should be attended by stakeholders to inform other participants of the conferences that such options are available in Bangladesh.

By default food is Halal, but we need the Halal certification. Aktaruz Zaman Khan Kabir, former CEO, Bangladesh Tou-rism Board and an Additional Secretary of the government of Bangladesh, said.

It is very much needed if we consider the amount of business transacted, he said.

Syed Golam Qadir, Managing Director, Wonder Ways Ltd, said we should not miss the opportunity. We will not have to do a great deal of job. It is only that we recognise it as such.

Presenting his country's scenario, Hanif Zakaria, Gene-ral Manager Bangladesh, Etihad Airways said United Arab Emirates has positioned itself as a Muslim friendly destination and also designated Tajmahal Hotel as a non-alcoholic hotel. Many hotels in UK and Europe are Halal, he said.

Taufiq Rahman, Chief Executive, Journey Plus said definitely everything is Halal here. When we bring tourists from abroad we provide food that is Halal. We also show them the sixty-domed mosque, Star Mosque and other mosques, he said.

Shamnoon Moheb Chow-dhury, Director, GoBDGo said though we were purely outbound before, we have now launched GoHalal to tap this segment.

Masud Hossain, Managing Director, Bengal tours said, Bangladesh is full of mosques, big and small, from the Sultanate period to the present days. To project them to tourists we could the educated but unemployed students of madrashas as guides, as it has been done in Malaysia.

He recounted a poignant story of Japanese tourists who sought alcohol every evening, but after they heard the Magreb Azan, they stopped seeking liquor.

TAT's Halal app, e-book

Isra Stapana-seth, Director, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, North and East India, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in his Power-Point presentation "Thailand: Muslim Frien-dly Destina-tion" said Thai-land has identified the country's ability to cater to a range of products and services for Muslim travellers.

Many of our shopping complexes provide facilities for Muslim prayers, he said, adding, Halal food is becoming commonplace in Thailand. We are seeing increasing number of Muslim-friendly hotels and restaurants, and tourist attractions.

Stapanaseth said 8.6 per cent of Thais are Muslims, i.e., 5.762 million people practicing the religion.

In a digital development, the Thai government together with the Tourism Authority of Thailand have created a multi-lingual app that lists over 500 go-to Halal-friendly locations (mosque, hotel, food and attractions).

The application has many useful functions such as searching nearby locations, providing details of places and map navigation. The user can save their favourite places into personal list. The app has also a Qibla compass.

There is also an e-book directory which offers information on services during Ramadan, religious facilities, Halal food, Muslim-friendly hotels and Muslim-friendly tour programmes.

Both the app and the e-book directory can be down loaded from TAT website.

Muslims enjoy full state support and are free to teach and observe their religion. There are 3600 mosques in Thailand, with 180 mosques in Bangkok alone.

Halal certification started in Thailand in 1969. There are 4,000 Halal-certified factories producing 120,000 products.

TAT New Delhi office will try to create awareness about this market with advertisements in the media and working with the tour operators of Bangladesh, Stapanaseth said.

Malaysia experience

Nur Alyssa Coraline Yussin, an expert from Tourism Malaysia's Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC), in her PowerPoint presentation "The Emergence of Muslim-Friendly Tourism: Malaysia's Experience" giving a picture of Muslim visitor arrivals and expenditure 2000-2010 said, 25 million Muslim visitors spent US$20 billion in 2000, which rose to 116 million visitors who spent US$121 billion. The figure will be increasing in 2020 to 180 million visitors who would be spending US$212 billion.

The global spending of Muslim tourists in 2015, excluding Haj and Umrah was US$151 billion - 11 per cent of global expenditure while the expected global spending of Muslim tourists is expected to rise to US$243 billion in 2021, which will be 13 per cent of global expenditure.

Yussin said that 23 per cent of the world's population was Muslim in 2014 which will rise to 26 per cent in 2030, pointing out that 50 per cent of Muslims are under the age of 25 years; 70 per cent of the Arab population in under the age of 25 years; and 66 per cent of the Muslim population is under 30 in Europe and North America.

She said it is the new generation of Muslim travellers who should be targeted. They are highly educated and have high spending power; generally second and third generation from Europe, UK and USA; and increasingly seeking out goods and services with Islamic value.

Coraline Yussin said the needs of Muslim travellers require to be attended to, which, she said, were : Understanding of Islamic principles; holistic approach to the Islamic tourism value chain; value creation through products and services; upholding the integrity of Islamic tourism; instilling Muslim-friendly components; and looking for an enriched experience with choices.

Yussin also said that the industry players in Malaysia were more comfortable with the term Muslim-friendly tourism.

Earlier, in his opening remarks at the seminar, Kazi Wahidul Alam, Editor, The Bangladesh Monitor, said US and European Union were the top beneficiaries of Muslim tourism spending, netting nearly US$64 billion of inbound expenditure in 2015 or around 44 per cent of the total.

When it comes to the biggest spenders, the Middle East leads the pack, accounting for 60 per cent of all outbound Muslim tourism expenditure, worth about US$60 billion.

Asia and Europe are the second largest markets in terms of outbound Muslim tourism expenditure, each generating around 20 per cent of total spending.

The sector is expected to grow by 50 per cent in volume and 35 per cent in value over the next five years, but its potential is yet to be unlocked.

Kazi Wahidul Alam concluded saying, Bangladesh having a population of over 180 million, of which Muslim population is over 90 per cent, has all the potentials to position itself as one of the most Muslim-friendly destinations.

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