Need to tread with caution in reviving halal tourism industry

With the COVID-19 situation getting relatively under control in many countries, a number of people have become eager to travel to escape from the boredom and stress caused by the pandemic over the past two years.

According to data provided by Statistics Indonesia (BPS), the number of international tourist arrivals in Indonesia in April 2022 reached 111,100, the highest on record since the pandemic hit the nation.

“This figure is the highest since the start of the pandemic. This indicates that the tourism sector has started to recover, ”BPS head Margo Yuwono said recently.

The number of international tourists arriving in Indonesia in April 2022 increased drastically by 499.01 percent compared to April 2021.

Compared to the previous month, the number of international tourists arriving through the main entrance increased by 172.27 percent in April 2022.

Indonesia hosted the 2022 International Halal Congress in Bangka Belitung province, which is one of Indonesia’s halal tourism destinations, on June 14 and 15, 2022.

The congress, which was attended by participants and speakers from 40 countries, offered an opportunity for halal industry players to formulate policies related to halal tourism and products.

It yielded a nine-point resolution, among other things, calling for an acceleration of halal tourism and halal industry development as a significant pillar of national and global economic growth.

Indeed, as the world’s largest Muslim majority country, Indonesia has a lot to offer to foreign as well as domestic Muslim travelers.

Related news: Indonesia’s steps to become world’s halal center

Prior to the pandemic, the tourism ministry had developed halal tourism in many provinces, and was specifically targeting Middle Eastern tourists, a segment that has so far remained untapped.

Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiago Uno, at a press briefing on June 20, 2022, said that Indonesia has emerged as the second-best halal tourist destination globally after Malaysia, based on the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2022.

In 2019, Indonesia, along with Malaysia, was named the best halal tourism destination, trumping 130 destinations across the world.

The Mastercard-Crescent rating agency last year put Indonesia in the first place, based on GMTI standards with a score of 78, and Malaysia in the upper rankings, Crescent Rating CEO Fazal Bahardeen said while delivering the GMTI Report 2019 in Jakarta in April.

Lombok, one of West Nusa Tenggara’s (NTB’s) main islands, was adjudged the best halal tourism and honeymoon destination at the World Halal Travel Awards 2015 in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, which were held in conjunction with the World Halal Travel Summit 2015 .

In addition to NTB, other Indonesian priority halal tourist destinations include Aceh, Riau, Riau Islands, West Sumatra, Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, East Java, and South Sulawesi provinces.

Jakarta is the country’s main halal tourism destination because the capital has several Muslim-friendly facilities for tourists.

Hence, Uno said he has established cooperation with Istiqlal Grand Mosque, the country’s largest mosque and one of Jakarta’s iconic buildings, for the promotion of halal tourism in Jakarta.

“Jakarta has at least 510 hotels having halal certificates and five sharia-type hotels. Meanwhile, Kubah Basirih village in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, is being developed as a sharia tourism destination as it has huge potential for it, but the quality needs a lot of improvement, ”he added.

In developing halal tourism, the government will prioritize quantity rather than quality, as the ministry is seeking to get tourists to stay longer and spend more.

In the halal tourism sector, Indonesia ranks sixth in the world, with a transaction value of US $ 11.2 billion.

Related news: Halal tourism showing upward trend: Vice President Ma’ruf Amin

Vice President Ma’ruf Amin is optimistic about the sector recovering and reinvigorating following a decline in COVID-19 cases.

“People and their families will travel again to visit halal tourism attractions after not having visited for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he stated in his opening remarks at the International Halal Congress on June 14.

The vice president said that halal tourism is an effort to provide halal services, such as prayer rooms and halal restaurants, to complement tourism attractions instead of modifying tourism spots to make them Muslim-compliant.

“There are some misconceptions that halal tourism means to Islamicize the tourism (attractions),” he added.

Amin then expressed the hope that the halal congress would step up efforts to make Indonesia a global halal center.

In order to promote halal tourism, Amin had in June this year met with Foreign Affairs Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bisera Turkovic, and Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Indonesia, Jalal Mriyazev, to discuss cooperation in the religion, economy, and halal tourism sectors.

As Indonesia must optimize the available opportunities to bolster tourism recovery, Amin cautioned that vigilance against an uptick in COVID-19 cases remains a must.

In fact, Director General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at a media briefing on COVID-19 on June 8, reminded the world that the perception that the pandemic is over is understandable, but misguided.

More than seven thousand people lost their lives to the virus last week and a new and even more dangerous variant could emerge at any time, while vast numbers of people remain unprotected, he added.
Related news: Optimistic VP of halal tourism recovering as COVID-19 cases decline
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