JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – As the nation with the biggest population of Muslims, Indonesia is now intensively promoting the development of ‘Halal tourism’ in an effort to attract tourists from Muslim nations, particularly countries in the Middle East.
The Tourism Ministry has designated at least 10 provinces as ‘Halal tourist destination regions’, comprising six provinces or special regions in Java Island (Banten, Jakarta, West Java, and Central Java, in addition to Yogyakarta and East Java), two in Sumatra (West Sumatra and Aceh), one in Kalimantan (South Kalimantan) and one in West Nusa Tenggara province.
The Government is optimistic that Indonesia can emerge as the number one Halal Tourist Destination in the world by 2019. This optimism is based on the fact that the archipelago has a wide range of attractions as well as unique and diverse cultures not possessed by other countries.
Speaking to The Insider Stories, Riyanto Sofyan, Head of the Team for Accelerated Development of Halal Tourism at the Ministry of Tourism, told us how Indonesia can capture the Muslim market effectively.
Q: What is Halal tourism? How does it matter?
A: While it typically refers to food, the term but covers all daily life activities in accordance with Islamic Law. That said, Halal tourism is seen as tourism that is more aligned with Islamic Law and traditions.
Why is it so important? The numbers speak for themselves. According to Thomson Reuters, Muslim tourists spent US$151 billion in 2012 (excluding those on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia), and by 2020 this figure is expected to exceed $180 billion.
The strength of Indonesia is that the majority of its population is Muslim. But the interest in Halal tourism in Indonesia is still low. If we talk about Halal tourism, Malaysia has been becoming the most favored destination in the world. But actually, Indonesia could be better than that.
Q: What distinguishes Halal tourism from other varieties?
A: For Halal tours, special service is the key interest for Muslim travelers. For instance, a hotel that applies a Halal tourism concept should provide a travel prayer mat, the direction of the Qibla, and there should be a mosque nearby. And for food at least, they must qualify for a ‘Halal certificate’ from the Indonesian Council of Ulamas.
As Islam is not simply a religion but also a way of life, it is hard or even unthinkable for some Muslims to give up their Islamic path for the sake of relaxation, or even slightly ‘loosen up’. Even though Muslims want to truly experience different cultures and environments when on holiday, there are circumstances in contradiction with their faith.
Not all Muslims are the same, of course. They differ in the way they exercise their religion and there are gradations in how strict they are with it. Some do not care if others beside them consume alcohol, or if their hotel has no prayer room, or if their food is not Halal. However, even a moderate Muslim will prefer to go somewhere with ‘Halal’ aspects.
Q: This year, Indonesia just achieved a higher rank than in previous years on the Global Muslim Travel Index, from 4th on 2016 to 3rd on 2017. What is the key to boost Halal tourism promotion?
A: Attractions. Every region has different attractions, and that becomes a potential to be developed. For example, West Sumatra has a potential for Halal tourism development as culturally it is known as a religious province. We want West Sumatra to achieve the same status as West Nusa Tenggara which was awarded the World’s Best Halal Tourism Destination award.
Q: is there any standard or parameter for Halal tourism service?
A: one of the challenges now for tourism professionals is to create a single, global Halal certification system, which will encourage the expansion of the Halal tourism industry as a whole. We have to create at least friendly hotels, restaurants, spas and karaoke based on Sharia law.
Q: What is the mid-term goal for Halal tourism Indonesia has developed?
A: Halal tourism will now also become a major focus in our national tourism development. Referring to the fact that among the 6.8 billion of world’s population, a significant 1.6 billion are Muslim, which makes the size of the Halal tourism market important.
In 2014, the Halal travelers’ movement was recorded at 116 million and the number is projected to increase 9.08 percent, reaching 180 million by 2020. Meanwhile, in Indonesia itself, nationwide during the last 3 years an average growth of 15.5 percent of Halal travelers was recorded.
Writing by Elisa Valenta, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org