Is Azerbaijan open for halal tourism?

Have you heard of ‘Halal tourism’ before? ‘Halal’ is a notion typically used for food but covers all activities of daily life in accordance with the Islamic Law.

Today, the Muslim travel market one of the fastest-growing segments in the global travel industry, if to consider that Muslims represent nearly one-fourth of the world’s population.

Last year about $155 billion were spent by Muslim travelers, which represent about 13 percent of the total global travel expenses, according to the data of the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI).

This May, the GMTI predicted that the Muslim travel market will be worth $220 billion by 2020 and $300 billion by 2026, spurred by Muslim-friendly amenities and easy access to travel information.

The number of Muslim tourists for today is 108 million and  this figure will reach 150 million in 2020, the statistics reveals.

Malaysia is considered the number one choice for halal tourism. The country has even earned the status of being a “Muslim-friendly” destination. Other popular tourist destinations for Muslims include the United Arab Emirate, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

In total there are 350 halal hotels in the world, and 160 of them are located in Turkey, herewith, prices in such hotels, according to Zamanov, are quite high.

But where stands Azerbaijan, with 10-million predominantly Muslim population, on this list?

In the 2016 survey of GMTI covering 130 tourist destinations, Azerbaijan, has ranked 20th among the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The country’s incomparable historical and cultural heritage, as well as expertise in halal hospitality, allowed Azerbaijan to enter the list of the top Muslim holidays destinations. In Azerbaijan, where modernity and intellect meet Islam and modern cultures, Muslim visitors can have an unforgettable experience.

Meanwhile, this year the GMTI put Azerbaijan 24th on development of halal tourism

Although recently, tourism in Azerbaijan has become one of the priority areas, but halal tourism is not yet so developed.

Expert in tourism Ramin Zamanov in an interview with Sputnik Azerbaijan said that this direction implies the construction of hotels, restaurants, food facilities in accordance with the requirements of Islam.

“Halal tourism” today exists and develops in countries where Muslims constitute the overwhelming majority of the population,” he said.

Such recreation centers should have mosques, as well as recreation places for women and men separately. The dishes should also be prepared in conformity with Islamic traditions.

“That is, people rest in an environment that fully meets the requirements of the religion they practice,” he said.

The generally accepted standard of halal tourism in the world does not yet exist: “There is no halal planes or halal tours, there are just halal hotels and food facilities.”

However, as the expert pointed out, some entrepreneurs simply use the word “halal” to make money on people who are extremely attached to their religion. He also noted that it is quite difficult to calculate the revenues received from this type of tourism.

If to consider the statistics from January to July 2017 Arab tourists hold the first position among tourists visiting Azerbaijan.

There is no halal hotels in Azerbaijan, Zamanov said, although there were attempts to create them. As a rule, religious people are engaged in the construction of such hotels.

“In general, there is no great demand for halal tourism, and it is only possible to invest in it in Azerbaijan on an individual basis.”



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