Halal Tourism in the Middle East?

An international report from the World Travel Market that opened this week in London has coined the term “Halal Tourism” as something that the Middle East needs to begin exploiting, especially with the increase of inter-regional tourists.

A halal airline, halal restaurants…ummm…but wait a minute — in my knowledge, Muslim countries are “halal”, i.e. the entire Middle East is halal — so, I don’t see how marketing services under “Halal Tourism” will do much when it has always been a given i.e. default.

Airlines like Emirates, Gulf Air and Qatar Airways serve only halal food and have praying areas or at least a direction that marks Mecca — at the airports and in their aircrafts. In fact, they have incorporated Islamic necessities so well that it makes all passengers feel comfortable — Muslim or not.
On a similar note, Dubai has what I like to call some “considerate” rules that allow it to keep its international spirit but at the same time serves well to those more religious Muslims. For e.g. it has “pink-taxis” with women drivers, undoubtedly only for women and families, women-only days at the beach, and they even sell halal cosmetics!

Now, will things like this encourage women from around the region to travel alone to Dubai or say Algeria? from Saudi Arabia, for example? I highly doubt it.

In fact, shouldn’t they be doing the opposite to attract a market from outside the Middle East? For instance, not long ago Dubai introduced “Pork-Sections For Non-Muslims Only” in supermarkets to cater to the high percentage of international population that lives in the city. Also, drinking alcohol is legal in Dubai — except in Ramadan when they serve alcohol but only to non-Muslims (they check ID!).

If Halal Tourism needs to be promoted, it should be outside the Middle East, beginning with countries that don’t make it difficult for people from the region to get visas to their country, don’t you think?

[Via AFP]