In 2015, Serene Loo, a business director and blogger from Jakarta, went to Japan for her honeymoon. Loo and her husband fell in love with Japan, but as observant Muslims who adhere to halal dietary laws, their dining options were limited.
Last year, when the couple returned to Japan, they were delighted to discover that some restaurants had begun to see potential in “halal tourism” — a niche market that encompasses Muslim-friendly food and drinks, tours with breaks for the five daily prayer calls, visits to mosques and prayer rooms, and halal hotels such as the Syariah Hotel Fujisan.
An alcohol- and smoke-free property at the base of Mount Fuji, the Syariah Hotel Fujisan lends copies of the Quran and prayer rugs to guests, has a prayer room with facilities for ritual washing, and uses arrows on the ceiling of each guestroom to indicate the direction of Mecca, which Muslims face during prayer.
“It was heartwarming to see [Japan] welcome us back with many more new Muslim-friendly establishments. And guess what? I finally got my fill of authentic Japanese halal ramen. Lots of it,” Loo blogged.
Halal tourism is not new. It has been around since there have been Muslims, and accounts for 11.6% of global tourism expenditure, according to data from Thomson Reuters and DinarStandard, a U.S.-based research and advisory group. But the market is changing rapidly.