Is Singapore the Next Big Halal Destination?

Indonesia ranks second to China in the number of tourists to Singapore and this is pushing authorities to prepare more halal services for Muslims.

[] According to the Indonesian Tourism Industry Association (GIPI) deputy head Panca Sarungu, Singapore has the potential to become the next big halal tourism destination.

An Arabic word, halal means what is allowable under the teachings of Islam. It also means that alcohol, pork, nudity, and gambling are automatically excluded from this sort of tourism. It is designed for families of Islamic faith, necessitating separate facilities for swimming and spa use for women and men.

The growing industry, however, is expected to generate a cool US$200 million (S$276 million) by 2020, the Jakarta Post reports. And in Asia, Singapore may be in a unique position to take the lion’s share.

The city-state is also promoting halal tourism, along with Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. But GIPI’s Mr Panca says the niche industry won’t have a hard time growing in Singapore since 5 percent of the population are Muslims and Malays, who, he says, “are used to handling halal tourism.”

For him, proof that the Government is taking the industry seriously, as well as the country’s place in it, can be seen in food courts in Changi International Airport with separate areas for halal and non-halal foods.

Moreover, the Government has also requested for hotels to build prayer rooms and other facilities, and provide halal restaurants. The number of Muslim travelers has increased all over the world by about 30 percent since 2016.

Indonesia ranks second to China in the number of tourists to Singapore. Ufuk Secgin, the chief marketing officer for Halal Booking, a Muslim-focused vacation search engine, said earlier this year, “In Europe, the Muslim community is now in its third or fourth generation. They are educated and have good-paying jobs.

For the first generation, their idea of a holiday was visiting the family in the home country. This has changed.” Last October, at the travel show ITB Asia, Crescent Rating and Halal Trip, two halal travel authorities, held panel discussions and showcases specifically for the approximately 156 million Muslims travelling in 2019 and 2020. A big part of the talks centered on food.

Soumaya Hamdi, the founder of Halal Travel Guide, told the New York Times, “The number one factor is good quality halal food. “I’m not talking about curry or biryani — I’m talking about authentic local food that is halal. After that, it’s usually prayer facilities.”

A growing online travel community, based in Singapore, Have Halal Will Travel, also in cooperation with ITB Asia, held a conference which concentrated on providing food for Muslim travellers. Its founder, Mikhael Goh, created the platform with some friends in 2015 while he was a student in Seoul, out of frustration with not finding halal food daily.

“We were thinking, why is it in 2015, when there is Yelp and TripAdvisor and so many popular apps and services to tell you where to eat and where to travel, why on earth is there so little information for Muslims?

Not just about food — yes, halal food is the basis of a lot of things, but also about safety and prayer. There was a general lack of information out there and the information that did exist was so fragmented,” he said.

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