Researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University have reviewed the current state of knowledge regarding the needs of Muslim tourists, and find that some areas (such as the role of travel and religious and cultural events in well-being for Muslims) aren't well understood.
Researchers say the Muslim travel (or Halal tourism) market currently represents about 11% of total global travel, and is expected to reach a value of US$238B by 2020.,
Muslim tourists have specific requirements associated with adherence to the tenets of the Qur'an which must be accommodated by destinations, e.g.:
- Halal food
- Prayer facilities
- Separate facilities for men and women
- Alcohol-free bars
- Other amenities that respect the Muslim culture and religion
In their study, the researchers searched and reviewed articles in journals, online media and hospitality and tourism sites on topics like "Halal travel" and "Islamic tourism."
The articles reviewed most frequently dealt with issues like Halal food, restaurants, accommodation and the overall concept of a "Muslim-friendly destination," particularly with regard to the preparation and consumption of food and non-consumption of alcohol. Muslim travelers' requirements for prayer were frequently addressed also. But less material was available related to Muslim festivals and holidays. In particular, Eid-ul-Fitr, the celebration at the end of Ramadan, received scant coverage. (The researchers compared the importance of this event to Muslims with that of Chinese New Year to Chinese tourists.)
Also issues of individuals' responsibilities and obligations to family, friends and others received little coverage.More emphasis is needed on the rules and preferences for the segregation of men and women at leisure facilities like spas, pools and massage facilities. Destinations need to be able to provide the necessary facilities for segregation while at the same time providing Muslim visitors with enjoyable experiences.
Destinations also need advice on some of the verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication: polite forms of address, rules about touching, preferences for social distance and eye contact, and use of the right hand to pass objects; also Muslim dress codes and principles for covering the body.
Shopping - including bargaining and tipping - is another area where education is needed.
The researchers stress that "we should study and plan for what Halal tourists want, but we can do this without needing to immerse ourselves in the sophisticated and complex cultures of the Islamic world."
The original paper is published here: Oktadiana, Hera, Pearce, Philip L. and Chon, Kaye. (2016). Muslim Travellers’ Needs: What Don’t We Know? Tourism Management Perspectives, 20, 124-130 and can be obtained from the authors via the EXTERNAL ARTICLE link, below.