Japan Promoting 'Halal Tourism' to Make Muslim Visitors More Comfortable
Japan is aiming to remodel its tourism industry to make it more appealing to Muslim visitors by instructing restaurants in how to include halal meals on their menus and aiding hotels in providing prayer rooms to visitors, in an attempt to increase revenue from the industry.
The Agence France-Presse reports that local governments are attempting to adapt to the potential supply of Muslim tourists in neighboring countries like Indonesia and Malaysia by helping teach those in the industry how to adapt their goods and services to attract Muslims. In Osaka, for example, the Osaka Chamber of Commerce "handed out 5,000 leaflets as a guide to what can and cannot be eaten – the idea of forbidding consumption of things like alcohol or pork is anathema to omnivorous and foodie Japan," the AFP explains.
Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims, offers Japan even more opportunities for Muslim tourism, as many Muslims have the freedom to take vacations from work during this time. Visa requirements have been relaxed for tourists from Malaysia and Thailand, and Indonesia is expected to receive the same treatment from the island nation.
In addition to restaurants, hotels, and shops on the ground, airlines like All Nippon Airways are providing halal meals on flights to Japan to facilitate travel.
The move appears to be working. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, 37% more Indonesians visited Japan from Indonesia between 2012 to 2013. The increase from Malaysia during the same time was 21%. It also reports that different leaders in tourist industries are expecting a significant increase in the number of Muslim travelers to Japan. One of those leaders, Toshimune Suto of the hotel corporation Kamori Kanko Group, said that they expected a 30% increase in Malaysian Muslim visitors for the end of 2013, and to respond to the demand, the hotels have been equipped with prayer spaces and halal meals.
The increased demand for Muslim-friendly tourism follows a direct reaching out from the Japanese industry to the Muslim world, in part to offset the drop in tourism from China as tensions of territorial disputes escalated last year. It is believed that Japan's native Muslim population remains modest, however, with estimates around 100,000 of its 127,600,000 residents.