A train crossing the Landwasser Viaduct bridge in Switzerland. Many hotels and resorts in the picturesque country customise their offerings for Muslim travellers Image Credit: Shutterstock

Halal tourism is fast becoming a popular sub-sector within the travel industry that includes resorts and hotels serving halal food and following a no-alcohol policy in all or some areas on their premises. 

Some properties have separate pool, spa and leisure facilities for ladies, while others have mixed beach areas for families with modest swimming dress code. These resorts and hotels offer prayer facilities on site. 

Growing demand 

“In today’s political climate, these travellers want to travel to places where they feel secure and don’t have to worry about being subject to Islamophobia,” says Naeem Patelia, an independent travel counsellor in the UAE. “Most bookings for halal holidays come from Muslim as well as Western expats.”

Many tourism boards such as Japan, Indonesia and Singapore have halal programmes so that hotels and tourist attractions can understand the needs of the Muslim traveller.

Popular halal holiday destinations include Bosnia, Azerbaijan and Croatia but Turkey remains a favourite as well as China due to its historical significance. The UAE, especially Abu Dhabi and Dubai, is also very popular, and significant efforts are under way to develop it as a halal-friendly destination.

CrescentRating (a leading authority on halal tourism) estimates 121 million Muslim tourists spent $155 billion (Dh569 billion) as they travelled around the world in 2016, making up 10 per cent of the entire tourist market internationally. By 2020, the Muslim travel market is forecast to grow to 156 million travellers and $220 billion.

Options for Muslims

“What is a halal holiday? It’s quite a popular term that is used in the industry but the reality is that a lot of numbers being shared are questionable,” says Matthias Albrecht, Director GCC for Switzerland Tourism.  

“Switzerland is a very popular destination for GCC travellers with almost 1 million overnight stays being recorded from the region in 2016. This is a growth of more than 100 per cent in five years,” says Albrecht. 

As the number of tourists from GCC continues to grow, a lot of hotels and resorts in Switzerland begin to customise their offering. Currently more than 74 restaurants serve halal food and others do so on request. 

Hotels also offer separate halal corners and quite a few hotels have started distributing the Quran/compass/prayer rugs at the reception, 
says Albrecht. 

With an estimated three million Muslim visitors a year, Thailand was named as one of the top 10 Muslim-friendly tourism destination in the world by Global Muslim Travel Index 2016. “The recent hosting of the first ever Thailand Muslim-Friendly Destination in Bangkok further strengthens Thailand’s position to cater to Muslim travellers by providing Arabic-speaking staff, halal food options, prayer facilities in the airport and Muslim-friendly hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions throughout the country,” says Chalermsak Suranant, Director — Tourism Authority of Thailand Dubai and Middle East office.

Thailand has also launched a new Muslim-friendly app, which has the full list of certified halal restaurants and places of worship.

Top Eid ideas 

Culture 

China: Xi’an is the first city in China to be introduced to Islam, and it still hosts a sizeable Muslim community. Take a stroll down the Muslim quarter and you will be spoiled by all the delightful eateries that line the area. Then make a trip and see the Terracotta Warriors, also a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Gastronomy 

Australia: Head to the northern suburbs in Melbourne, which is home to one of the largest Islamic communities in Australia to find a wide range of halal cuisine — both traditional and modern. 

Hong Kong: Looking for halal dim sum? Simply head down to the famous Islamic Centre Canteen for this Chinese delicacy. . If convenience is your priority, stay in the Wan Chai area, which is brimming with halal local food.

Relaxation

Tanzania: Zanzibar is home to pristine beaches and stunning architecture. With a majority Muslim population, halal food and mosques are easy to find in 
this bustling city. 

Family and kids

Switzerland:  In Interlaken GCC guests can enjoy a halal cruise on beautiful Lake Brienz, with an Arabian Nights theme and Middle Eastern dishes.
The Alpine nation abounds with halal choices.
 
Denmark: Legoland Park, the country’s top amusement park, is a great add-on to any North European holiday. Copenhagen is also home  to the stunning Islamic Belief Centre.