The Ministry of Tourism in Kenya has backed rallying calls by the private sector for development guidelines for Sharia-compliant products in the hospitality industry.
The country lacks a regulatory framework for Halal food and facilities. This has seen Kenya miss out on the growing Halal tourism globally, a forum in Nairobi heard yesterday.
Tourism CS Najib Balala said the country was keen on developing a regulatory and institutional framework for the emerging Halal tourism.
“We are open as a tourism industry to work with the Islamic Finance Development Board to come up with the institutional and regulatory framework that we do not have,” Balala said when he opened the two-day Islamic Economic Summit.
Kenya will be joining conventional markets such as Singapore, Thailand, the UK and South Africa which have the framework.
The 2016 Global Muslim Travel Index by MasterCard-Cresent Rating shows that there were an estimated 117 million Muslim international travelers. This is projected to grow to 168 million by 2020, where the travel expenditure by Muslim travelers is expected to exceed $200 billion (Sh20.68 trillion).
Balala said that the Tourism Regulatory Authority was already working with the Halal Certification Board to develop Halal standards for certification of hospitality facilities in a move targeting Muslims’ growing demand for leisure travel.
For an institution to incorporate the Halal economy it is required to offer Halal food services, Salaath (prayer) facilities, water-usage friendly washrooms as well as Ramadhan (fasting) services and facilities.
“We have to realize that it is not just about food. It’s a big market and we need to learn and put the standards in place so that we can go and inform the hotels and restaurants what is required by a Halal client when they come in. We want to capture that market,” Balala said.
He added: “If there is anytime the government is sensitive in matters pertaining to the muslim community, it is now.”
Islamic finance has experienced slow growth over the years due to a lack of appropriate regulations, technical capacity and awareness by the community.
“Since the financial regulatory authorities are all represented in the Islamic Finance Project Management Office, we are able to develop policy as well as identify regulatory issues on a holistic cross-sectoral basis,” Capital Markets Authority acting chief executive Paul Muthaura said.
Kenya has shown interest in joining the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Originally published on www.the-star.co.ke