Get Ready for the Wave of Post-Pandemic Muslim Tourism Business Opportunities
Want to learn about Islam and know more about Muslims? According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are 57 Muslim countries in the world and over 1.6 billion Muslims (about 1/5 of the world’s population). With the demographic dividend and the growth potential of the emerging middle class, these countries have become a huge market that cannot be ignored, and the halal industry brings an unlimited amount of business opportunities.
Islam is one of the most influential and populous religions in the world, and Islamic culture is deeply influenced by the doctrines. Muslims follow the religious norms in their daily lives and diet and use halal-authenticated or certified products.
Indonesians and Malaysians are Taiwan’s Main Customer Base
The Muslim countries are mainly located in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, and Africa. They include Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Oman, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Somalia, and Nigeria. For Taiwan, two nearby countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, are the primary markets.
The halal industry refers to a multitude of services provided exclusively for Muslims in aspects such as travel, food, medicine, cosmetics, finance, modest fashion, media, entertainment, etc. Among these, halal travel and food are the most directly related to tourism.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs statistics, there are currently about 50,000 Taiwanese who are Muslims. In addition, there are about 200,000 foreign Muslims who are foreign spouses (new residents), migrant workers, and students who come to Taiwan for marriage, work, and education. These are mostly Indonesian Muslims.
Promote Halal Certification to Create a Friendly Environment
While Taiwan is not a typical Muslim country, as this open society’s development diversifies, the Taiwanese government and large corporations have increasingly valued the Islamic economy. To facilitate the needs of the Muslims in Taiwan and gain the trust of those abroad, both the public and private sectors have joined in promoting halal certification to create a Muslim-friendly environment.
In the last few years, an increasing trend in Taiwan can be seen in which hotels, catering services, and food businesses obtain halal certifications or friendliness stamps, from five-star hotels (e.g., Regent Taipei, Grand Hotel, Ambassador, Hotel Royal, and Palais de Chine) to recreational farms (e.g., Shangri-La in Yilan and Flying Cow Ranch in Miaoli) and from theme parks (e.g., Leofoo Village, Janfusun, and Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village) to restaurants and street foods (e.g., Dingxian 101 and Fried Chicken Master). From the pricey to the inexpensive, there are many options for Muslims to choose from.
Halal Vending Machines Are Available 24/7
Additionally, Taiwan External Trade Development Council’s Taiwan Halal Center also joined forces with Lai Lai Convenience Store Company to launch the “OK mini”—halal vending machines that sell halal-certified, locally made snacks and beverages. At present, these machines can be found in the Taipei International Convention Center, Nangang Exhibition Center, Keelung’s Heping Island Park, and Taoyuan Chang Gung Memorial Hospital. The vending machines will be installed in more places in the future to provide Muslims with services 24/7.
Just like other travelers, Muslims like to check out popular tourist attractions and experience local customs. As long as the environment is friendly, safe, and trustworthy, more overseas Muslims will be attracted to visit Taiwan in the future.
How is a Muslim-friendly environment created? Muslims must pray in the direction of the holy city of Mecca 5 times a day. If prayer rooms can be set up in various scenic spots, hotels, restaurants, and exhibition centers to facilitate worship, it will increase the willingness of Muslims to visit Taiwan. Take Leofoo Village as an example. It has thoughtfully selected the “Arabian Palace” area, which features Middle Eastern characteristics, to provide halal meals, ablution rooms, and prayer rooms, so that Muslim visitors can practice their faith while enjoying the trip.
In addition to obtaining halal certification and creating a friendly environment and facilities, entrepreneurs and service personnel should also have an adequate understanding of Islamic culture, religion, and people, so that they could consider the customers’ demands when developing travel products to attract Muslims as post-pandemic halal business opportunities arise.
Expanding Halal Business Opportunities Starts with Understanding Islamic Culture
To bridge between Taiwanese and Islamic cultures, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Islamic Association of the Republic of China, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and government agencies of Islamic countries in Taiwan held two Islamic culture exchange events during this year’s Ramadan (April 13 to May 12).
The first event, “Islamic Culture Exhibition,” was held at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall a few days ago (April 9 to 18). The exhibition contained four sections: Arabic calligraphy, Islamic cultural relics, Islamic architecture (mosque), and Islam in Taiwan. Arabic calligraphy can be seen independently in paintings, but they are also commonly found on the walls, arches, and domes of mosques, alongside geometric figures or patterns and other Islamic artistic expressions. Islamic mosques are characterized by domes and high towers, exuding a unique cultural atmosphere.
The second event, an outdoor activity called “Islamic Cultural Discovery,” was held from April 17 to 18. The Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Oman Air, and other organizations set up booths to interact with the visitors. The public experienced the Islamic tradition of “breaking the fast" after sunset and tasted some halal foods. Those who missed this year’s event will have the opportunity again next year!
Taiwan-Indonesia Tourism Development Exchange Association Promotes “Muslims in Taiwan”
Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in Southeast Asia. The Taiwan-Indonesia Tourism Development Exchange Association has long been committed to promoting the bilateral development of Taiwan-Indonesia culture, travel, and tourism. The chairman of the association, Chang Zhijia, said that although the global tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, it will eventually return to normal. In the meanwhile, following government policies and making Taiwan a Muslim-friendly tourism environment is a worthwhile effort. The association will act as a liaison and sign MOUs with tourism organizations from various countries. It will also utilize an information platform to link to the information in each organization’s system, offering information transparency and real-time exposure. At the same time, it will help Taiwan’s certified hotels, restaurants, healthcare facilities, marketplaces, attractions, amusement parks, recreational farms, etc. to easily and effectively promote their own products.
For the Eid al-Fitr (Festival of Breaking the Fast), nearly a hundred businesses have participated in the “Muslims in Taiwan” campaign, such as Muslim-friendly ticket discounts at Leofoo Village Theme Park, as well as hot springs and halal cuisine at the Spring City Resort in Beitou and free guided tours of the natural scenery of Beitou. Some hotels are offering “book two nights and get one free” specials. Through these programs, Muslim visitors can experience Taiwan as a warm and welcoming place and share with their countries and friends via word-of-mouth, making Taiwan part of the global community.
It is worth noting that Taiwan’s epidemic prevention has been noticed by the rest of the world. It is foreseeable that there will be a wave of medical tourism in Taiwan after the pandemic. For this reason, Beitou Health Management Hospital, a certified Muslim-friendly medical institution, also launched a physical examination package designed exclusively for Muslims, creating a friendly medical environment. The service will look after the Muslims who live in Taiwan and will attract overseas Muslims to Taiwan in the future.
Additionally, the Taiwan-Indonesia Tourism Development Exchange Association is planning a free 2-day halal-certified farm trip in mid-May for Indonesian students and migrant workers in Taiwan as part of its public welfare responsibility.