New Zealand has the potential to tap into a rapidly growing Muslim tourism market, a tourism expert says.
Also known as "halal tourism", Kiwi operators and hospitality providers are being encouraged to supply services that comply with Islamic beliefs and practices.
Around 50,000 Muslim tourists from Indonesia and Malaysia travel to New Zealand each year, but experts say there's still room for growth.
University of Waikato professor Chris Ryan says New Zealand has the potential to triple its halal tourism market, if it can assure Muslim tourists have their needs met.
"We don't just want more people; what we want are people who are going to spend money with New Zealand tour operators, with New Zealand companies, and stay for long periods of time," says Mr Ryan.
Religious considerations are paramount for many Muslims, but hotels could cater for that by supplying prayer rooms and markers pointing to Mecca.
"As you know most of them prayer five times a day, but when they travel they do it three times a day," says halal tourism operator Mohammad Alam. "We don't necessarily need a dedicated place to pray. It doesn't have to be a mosque or an Islamic centre. We can do it anywhere."
Providing information about nearby halal restaurants or, even better, offering halal food, is also important.
That means no pork or alcohol and meat must be killed according to Islamic law.
"The most important thing is food," says Mr Alam. "In Auckland we don't have many issues because there a lots of halal outlets, but out of Auckland we have few."
Last year, Muslim tourists spent $137 billion on outbound travel worldwide – a figure that is expected to jump to $181 billion by 2018.
Tourism professionals say New Zealand has a natural advantage over other countries due to its comparatively good safety record. But more frequent and cheaper flights are also needed to encourage growth.
source: newshub archive