Japan tour operators, hotels bank on halal tourism
Kathryn Wortley, Tokyo
Halal tourism is seeing a boom across Japan as businesses better cater to the lucrative travel segment. Japan was ranked eighth out of 130 countries in the Global Muslim Travel Index 2016, which rates nations according to their halal-friendliness.
According to CrescentRating, which produced the index, the average annual growth rate for Muslim visitors to Japan is expected to hit 18.7 per cent over the 2013-2020 period, reaching one million yearly arrivals by 2020.
In July this year, Syariah Hotel Fujisan, a hotel built specifically for Muslims, opened near Mount Fuji. Aside from a halal menu, features include a prayer room and guest rooms with arrows pointing to Mecca. While interest has been minimal, Shigeru Yamashita, president of the hotel operator, said that he set up the hotel in anticipation of a boom in Muslim visitors years from now.
Miyako International Tourist Co., which offers halal tours to about 450 people a year, also expects dramatic growth. “We started halal tours in 2012 because many Muslims had difficulty visiting Japan due to the lack of information on halal meals and prayer places,” said the travel agency’s spokesman Ryoma Miyoshi. He expects further growth in halal travel demand in Japan as information on Muslim-friendly places become more readily available.
Meanwhile, Takeshi Sakamoto, chief executive of tour operator Trip Designer Inc, is hoping to target Muslim travellers by offering off-the-beaten-path excursions. “Most local agencies sell Muslim-friendly package tours visiting only major sightseeing spots,” he said. “This gives us the chance to sell more local tours and activities.”
The company has provided Muslim-friendly tours to tourists from 27 countries since launching in 2015. Arrivals are up month on month, according to Sakamoto, with a 35 per cent majority of demand coming from the US, followed by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
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October 24, 2016