Halal Tourism Hotspot on Target

Halal Tourism Hotspot on TargetHalal Tourism Hotspot on Target

Halal tourism has been gaining currency worldwide in recent years, with Turkey and Malaysia drawing large numbers of Muslim travelers every year.

A Muslim majority country and home to shrines of prominent Islamic figures, Iran is vying for Muslim tourists and efforts are being made to turn the country into a top halal tourism destination.

To further develop this sector, tourism authorities are organizing a conference to encourage interaction between experts and officials.

While some segments believe Iran is on the right track, others are of a different opinion, according to a report by the Persian daily Hamshahri.

  Halal Brand Unnecessary

The general consensus among those pushing for halal tourism is that development of the sector will open avenues for more Muslim tourists to visit Iran.

On the other hand, some believe there is no need to use the halal brand to promote Iranian tourism, because the country’s laws are exclusively based on Islamic law. They say all services offered in Iran are halal anyway, so there is no need to promote halal tourism since there is no other alternative.

During a meeting held at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization three weeks ago, representatives of the Islamic Development Organization and Al-Mustafa International University voiced opposition to plans to develop halal tourism.

  Iranian Tourism

According to Esmaeil Qaderi, a tourism expert and a faculty member at Allameh Tabatabaei University, tourism officials are trying to emulate Turkey and Thailand by developing halal tourism.

“The laws of those lands are vastly different from Iran’s. They need to have halal tourism to attract Muslim tourists,” he said. “Foreign tourists are knowledgeable enough to know that Iranian tourism is entirely halal.”

Pointing to Turkey as a secular country, Qaderi said since there are no restrictions in that country, they have to provide halal services to attract Muslims.

He said Thailand has had to build halal hotels and Malaysia, where 50% of the population are non-Muslims, has to label halal food products and hotels.

“Targeting halal tourists is a rising trend among countries whose laws do not comply with Islamic laws,” he said, adding that China and Taiwan aim to draw 270 million Muslim tourists annually by 2030.

“They have their work cut out for them. They need to make changes and develop infrastructure necessary for halal tourism,” he said.

The tourism expert warned against promoting halal tourism, saying foreigners might be misled into believing there is also such a thing as “haram tourism” in Iran.

In Islamic jurisprudence, haram is used to refer to any act that does not comply with Islamic laws.

  Halal Certification

Secretary-General of Halal World Institute Abdolhossein Fakhari believes the halal brand is necessary if Iran is to become a hotspot for Muslim travelers.

“When people see countries like Turkey, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia use the halal brand, they might wonder why Iran doesn’t,” he said. “Last year, President Rouhani emphasized that Iran has to become a major halal destination, so things need to change to make that happen.”

Elaborating on the benefits of using the halal brand, Fakhari said when tourists know, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the services offered are halal, they will travel to Iran.

The official said an international, independent organization, and not domestic entities, has to issue certificates for halal services and products.

Fakhari noted that when there are prayer rooms in hotels that do not indicate the direction of the qiblah for prayers, it means a lot of work needs to be done.

He questioned claims that all services in Iran are halal, citing numerous complaints claiming hotels and the food industry have broken the law.

Fakhari noted that a number of establishments have applied for halal certification and hoped that more hotels and service providers will acquire the certificate.

“Experience shows that Muslim tourists prefer to visit countries that use the halal brand,” he said. “So why shouldn’t we use it?”