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What is Muslim Friendly Tourism?

With the growth of the Muslim travel market, different terminology and definitions are used to
refer to either the total Muslim travel market or its sub-segments. To better define the
terminology, the study found that both a segmentation of the market as well as a conceptual
framework for MFT is required. This is illustrated by the varying focuses of the terms used by
academics, private & public organizations, and media.

 

Understanding Muslim-friendly tourism

According to Global Islamic Economy Indicator Report 2020, the spending of Muslims on travel increased by 2.7 percent in 2019 from $189 billion to $194 billion. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar ranked as the top three countries by spending. However, due to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 crisis, Muslim consumer spending on travel is expected to fall by 70 percent to $58 billion in 2020. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimated that the industry lost a total of $320 billion in just five months — between January and May 2020. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has forecast $2.2 trillion in losses for the industry in 2020. While the entire world is expecting COVID-19 vaccines as the powerful solution, many countries have started strategic preparations for their tourist industry to recover, Muslim-friendly tourism included. In general, Muslim0friendly tourism is not different from halal tourism, Islamic tourism or sharia tourism. However, in some countries, tourism players prefer the term “Muslim-friendly” instead of the rest.

Defining what is Halal Tourism or Muslim Friendly Tourism

With the growth of the Muslim travel market, varying terminology and definitions have been used to refer to either the total Muslim travel market or its sub-segments. Terms such as Muslim Friendly Tourism, Muslim Friendly Travel, Halal travel, Halal tourism has been widely used in the media. These terms used have had a varying focus, based on who is using the term and in which context.

Who are Muslim travelers or Halal-conscious travelers?

  • Muslim travelers: Muslims who travel.
  • Muslim travel: Muslims traveling for any purpose.
  • Muslim tourism: Muslims traveling for tourism.
  • Halal-conscious travelers: Muslim travelers who do not wish to compromise their faith-based needs while traveling.

The level of adherence to faith-based needs may vary from one traveler to another. As such, these terms refer to Muslim travelers who are looking for at least some form of faith-based need while traveling. The vast majority of Muslims will at the very least look for Halal food while traveling.

What does Muslim-friendly mean?

  • Muslim Friendly:  When used to refer to a service, a facility, or destination, it means that it has taken into account some faith-based needs of Muslim travelers but not all their needs.
  • Although Halal-friendly may also convey the same meaning, the term Muslim-friendly service/facility is more appropriate.

What is Muslim-friendly Tourism?

Muslim-friendly tourism is used to refer to the tourism segment which caters to the faith-based needs of Muslim travelers. The level of Muslim-friendly services can vary. Other terms used to refer to this segment are:

  • Muslim travel/Muslim-friendly travel
  • Muslim tourism/Muslim-friendly tourism
  • Halal travel/Halal-friendly travel
  • Halal tourism/Halal-friendly tourism
  • Islamic travel
  • Shariah Tourism
  • Ziyarah Tourism

However, none of them have a universally understood definition.

Definition by Academics

Many academics begin to define this segment of travelers by first exploring the elements that comprise tourism and its impact. Below are some definitions presented by academics. Their discussion is mainly based on the impact it has on society.

Islamic Motivation
According to Duman (2011) “Islamic tourism” can be defined as “the activities of Muslims traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for participation of those activities that originate from Islamic motivations which are not related to the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited”.

Faith-based needs and services
As a niche market “halal friendly” tourism includes; halal hotels, halal transport (halal airlines), halal food restaurants, halal tour packages and halal finance. Therefore, halal tourism consists of different sectors which are related with each other. (Akyol and Kilinc -2014).

Sureerat (2015) defines Halal tourism as offering tour packages and destinations that are particularly designed to cater for Muslim considerations and address Muslim needs. 

Islamic teachings
Fatin Norain Osman (2015) defines Muslim tourism to be based on Islamic teaching that encourages individuals, especially women and children to travel with their muhrim which means that someone who has blood relation with them to provide them with security.

How the Media refers to this segment

Acknowledgment of growth of the Muslim travelers by leading media, such as Wall Street Journal’s (2014) reference to this segment, revolves around the term “Halal Travel”. They tend to indicate that if Halal food is available then a destination is Muslim-friendly.

Reuters (2014) in their article “Thailand launches Muslim-friendly tourist app” defines it as providing hotels and shopping centers with prayer rooms and halal restaurants. 

The Guardian (2014) in their article “Indonesia’s Lombok promotes itself as ‘Muslim-friendly’ tourism destination”, defines Muslim tourism as “sharia” tourism. It further states that Muslim friendly destinations are a place with many mosques. Indonesia has 600,000 mosques it writes. 

How do Government bodies refer to this segment?

The Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) under the Ministry of Tourism have defined Islamic tourism as “any activity, event and experience undertaken in a state of travel that is in accordance with Islam” 

Definition on Wikipedia

Wikipedia states that “Halal tourism is a subcategory of tourism which is geared towards Muslim families who abide by rules of Islam. The hotels in such destinations do not serve alcohol and have separate swimming pools and spa facilities for men and women” 

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