THAILAND is making notable progress in efforts to become a Muslim-friendly destination, according to speakers at the recent PATA Engagement Hub in Bangkok.
Experts who study halal travel patterns expressed Thailand has “enormous potential to overtake Singapore as a Muslim travel hub in Asean”, especially with marketing strategies and training programs underway.
Halal Standards Institute of Thailand director Pakorn Piyakorn said at the event a standard certification system is being developed for hotels and restaurants that cater to Muslim travelers.
“Thailand was ahead of the curve,” said Fazal Baharden, founder of Crescent Rating, an organization that analyzes Muslim travel habits.
“They’ve really recognized the Muslim consumer market is worth tapping into.”
As of April, Thailand recorded more than 730 weekly flights to and from Muslim-majority countries, more than any other country in Asia.
Additionally, according to 2015 statistics published by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, visitors from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were the biggest daily spenders in Thailand.
Halal travel is rapidly rising, equating to US$200 billion in global spending. The growth can be attributed to several factors including a growing Muslim middle class in Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Nigeria and Bangladesh, and in the Gulf countries.
On top of that, a younger population of Muslims are keener to travel and have increased access to travel information.
In the Asean region, Malaysia and Singapore are the poster children of halal tourism with many family-friendly destinations, Muslim-friendly services (Malaysia being a Muslim-majority country) and halal awareness marketing.
Indonesia, too, is pulling in its share of Muslim visitors. Muslim- and tourist-friendly infrastructures, targeted marketing, and the training of human resources were said to be most needed for Indonesia to meet Malaysia’s ranks in the halal tourism market.