Jakarta – Indonesia is now intensively promoting the development of halal tourism in an effort to attract tourists from Muslim nations, particularly countries in the Middle East.
The Tourism Ministry has designated at least 10 provinces as halal tourist destination regions, which comprise six provinces or special regions in Java (Banten, Jakarta, West Java, and Central Java, in addition to Yogyakarta and East Java), two in Sumatra (West Sumatra and Aceh), one in Kalimantan (South Kalimantan) and one in Nusa Tenggara (West Nusa Tenggara/NTB).
The Tourism Ministry will formally announce Aceh and West Sumatra provinces in Sumatra as halal tourist destinations in 2016. The announcement will be made following the announcement of Lombok (NTB) as a halal tourist destination.
Indonesia has to develop its halal tourism destinations as these have the potential to attract foreign tourists (particularly those coming from the Middle East), according to Oneng Setya Harini, assistant deputy for People Empowerment and Destination Management of the Tourism Ministry.
Indonesia, which is also supported by its predominantly Muslim population, can become a friendly tourist destination nation for the worlds Muslims.
“We will encourage and develop Aceh and West Sumatra to become halal tourism destinations. The two provinces have more attractiveness and various tourist sites,” Oneng Setya Harini was quoted by Liputan6.com online media as saying Wednesday (April 6).
Halal tourism destinations have developed in a number of countries such as Malaysia and Japan, she said. These types of tourism destinations have grown rapidly in neighboring countries.
Sensing this development, Indonesia is not willing to be left behind Malaysia. Even more, Indonesia is blessed with regions that have Islamic cultural nuances such as the Aceh provinces.
“We have to become better than Malaysia, which is why we will develop Aceh. Aceh has a strong Islamic culture and natural potential. People come to Indonesia for its culture,” she said.
The Tourism Ministry hoped the halal tourism plan in West Sumatra and Aceh will proceed well this year, so that these two provinces would attract more foreign tourists from Muslim countries, Oneng Setya Harini said.
Actually, halal tourism is designed not only for Muslims but also for non-Muslims.
The Head of Tourism and Creative Economy Office of the West Sumatra province, Burhasman, said the Halal tourism concept is not only for Muslims and non-Muslims can also enjoy it.
“There is still a misunderstanding about Halal tourism and some people think it is meant for Muslims only as all things must be based on sharia. However, Halal tourism means the destination, accommodation, culinary and tourist attractions must all be as per the Halal concept,” Burhasman said in West Sumatra last week.
The Indonesia Ministry of Tourism will develop halal tourism in West Sumatra, a province that has a potential for such a concept just as West Nusa Tenggara province, known for similar tourism.
“West Sumatra has a potential for Halal tourism development as culturally, it is known as a religious province,” the Deputy Assistant of Business and Market Segment Development, the Ministry of Tourism, Tazbir, said here on Saturday (April 2).
He explained that Halal tourism is a universal concept which includes serving healthy food, providing clean accommodation and hospitability. Therefore, all the people find it suitable.
“We want West Sumatra achieve a similar status as West Nusa Tenggara which has been awarded the World Best Halal Tourism Destination award,” he said, adding that demand for Halal products is from the world community.
Indonesia won three awards as the world halal tourism destination at the World Travel Awards 2015 event held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The winners of the World Halal Travel Awards 2015 were announced at a gala dinner in Abu Dhabi on October 20, 2015, in conjunction with the World Halal Travel Summit 2015.
The development of Halal tourism in West Sumatra, according to Burhasman, has a big potential, but what is really needed is a guarantee that guests will be served Halal food and will be able to stay in a place that is safe and comfortable, he added.
For instance, he said, a hotel that applied Halal tourism concept should provide a travel prayer mat, the direction of the Qibla, and there should be a mosque nearby.
In addition, Halal tourism must necessarily come with a good service and should be friendly, have reasonable food prices, must be free of extortion, and should have clean toilets.
Burhasman said the administration will develop rules and regulations to support the implementation of Halal tourism concept in West Sumatra.
According to Tazbir, Halal tourism is a universal concept which includes serving healthy food, providing clean accommodation and ensure good hospitability. It is suitable for all people.
“We want West Sumatra to achieve the same status as West Nusa Tenggara which was awarded the Worlds Best Halal Tourism Destination award,” he said.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Tourism also is making efforts to boost the number of tourist arrivals from various Middle Eastern countries in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB). It backs the move to establish a halal tourism acceleration development team in the province.
“The team is expected to focus on mapping constraints and solutions to ensure development of tourism based on the Islamic sharia. It is also expected to make coordination easier,” Hafizuddin Ahmad, the deputy chairman of the Halal Tourism Development of the Tourism Ministry, said here on Wednesday (April 6).
Hafizuddin said NTB is one of the 10 halal tourism destinations being developed in Indonesia to attract foreign tourists, particularly those coming from the Middle Eastern countries.
Of the ten halal tourist destination provinces, the government is focusing on three provinces, namely NTB, Aceh and West Sumatra, to expedite halal tourism development.
“Such efforts have been on since 2015. Efforts to develop such tourism in West Sumatra and Aceh have also been on since the beginning of this year,” he said.
He said although Aceh and West Sumatra have just began on the path to develop halal tourism, the local governments had set up working groups last year itself. In NTB, such a working group was yet to be set up.
However, NTB, according to Hafizuddin, has taken the lead in the development of halal tourism because it has issued a gubernatorial decree to develop such tourism. The gubernatorial decree will be followed by local government regulations.