Welcoming Muslim/Halal tourism to the New Zealand market

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A total of US$126 billion in outbound travel expenditure was recorded in 2011 for the Muslim market, which came to 12.3% of the total global tourism expenditure. Indeed, the Halal (or Muslim) market is growing in prominence by the day. Projected travel expenditure values are at US$195 million for 2020.

For those who find the terminology perplexing at best - Muslim refers to a practitioner of the Islamic faith, and halal is a term designating any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law (known as Sharia).

Businesses and services hoping to enter the halal/Muslim market need to bear in mind a few non-negotiable requirements of the Islamic faith. But before we get into that, here are a few useful facts about the Muslim diaspora:

The Muslim diaspora is characterised by its diversity in geographical location and income levels, but also its shared values and lifestyle choices. Indonesia is currently home to the world's largest Muslim population, followed by Pakistan, India, Bangaldesh and Egypt. Surprisingly, South and Southeast Asia are where the majority of Muslims are concentrated, but it is equally important to keep in mind the millions of Muslims that reside in Africa, Europe and the Americas. For example, there are an estimated 44 million European Muslims. Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Indonesia represent the largest outbound Muslim tourist markets respectively. Saudi Arabia injected USD$23.8 billion into global outbound tourism expenditure, based on 2011 data.

How can New Zealand tourism capture the expanding Muslim traveller market? It's quite straightforward, really. Treat your guests with the same respect and hospitality you would offer to any traveller. But you already knew that - there is no other way to do business. Muslim travellers are similar to "conventional" travellers in many ways.

That being said, the Sharia dictates that Muslims should strictly abide by a handful of moral and religious decrees. As a courtesy to your Muslim visitors, you need to offer a number of essential services.

The first, which most providers are aware of, is halal food.

It's easier to describe what foods are haram (unlawful or prohibited according to Sharia) than foods that are halal, so here goes.

The food products mentioned below are considered haram, and all Muslims are prohibited from consuming these.

  • Swine/Pork and its by-products
  • Animals improperly slaughtered or dead before slaughtering
  • Alcoholic drinks and intoxicants
  • Carnivorous animals, birds of prey and certain other animals
  • Foods contaminated with ANY of the above products.

There are a number of halal-certified food suppliers throughout New Zealand. If you're not sure whether the food your accommodation serves counts as halal, you can contact The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) for further details. www.fianz.co.nz

Most vegetarian and vegan food options are by nature halal (with the exception of meals containing alcohol), but it is still advisable to check with authorities before making such claims.

Providing additional services such as halal toiletries will also set you in good stead with Muslim guests.

Central to the Islamic faith is prayer (salah/salat), which is mandatory and conducted five times daily, at prescribed times:

  1. At dawn to sunrise (Fajr)
  2. After midday, but before the afternoon prayer (Dhuhr)
  3. After the post-midday prayer, but before the sun sets (Asr)
  4. Just after sunset (Maghrib)
  5. Between dusk and dawn the following day (Isha)

Prayer can take place at any location and in any position, so long as the person faces the direction of the kabba in Mecca (qibla). Many luxury hotels offer qibla-orientation signage on their walls. A number of online apps are also available for this purpose. You might consider constructing a prayer room for Muslim (or religious guests of any other faith) guests who want to pray in private, undisturbed quarters.

Single-gender accommodation wards would be one other factor to take into consideration for catering to Muslim/Halal tourists travelling in groups.

Because the Muslim faith heavily stresses personal hygiene, Halal-friendly accommodation should also offer facilities that allow Muslims to effortlessly cleanse their extremities: feet, arms, face and hands, prior to prayer time. Bidets are acceptable for these occasions.

For those who are interested, the author believes that New Zealand is well-equipped to cater for a surge in Muslim tourism. Many food providers already engage in halal practices, and numbers of halal-certified establishments in New Zealand have grown over the past decade. Organic health and beauty products could prove to be a lucrative industry for New Zealand businesses hoping to capture the Muslim/Halal market - so long as the products are free of alcohol, predatory animals, and swine.

Hopefully this post has given you some insights as to what services your halal-friendly accommodation, restaurant, or tour could be providing to the Muslim/Halal market. This demographic is growing exponentially, and much of the population possesses high levels of liquidity. Jump on the bandwagon, and your efforts are sure to be rewarded.

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