The “big piece of cake” is available

There are about 2.1 billion Muslims globally. The yearly amount of money they spend is estimated at about USD 10 trillion. Most of Muslim tourists to the province come from the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia with stable and strong financial resources and willingness to pay.

According to experts, Islamic tourism, also known as Halal tourism is shifting to Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam. However, according to Ms. Tran Nu Ngoc Anh, an E.U. project expert, CEO of Dong A Hotel Group Joint Stock Company, to tap Islamic tourism, it requires tourist destinations, accommodation facilities, restaurants to have separate reception space and other facilities that meet their dietary needs, strict religious living habits, respect for different religious rituals, and separate reception times to avoid overlapping with reception times for other guests.

Observing Halal food cooking process at DeLaSea Ha Long Hotel

Therefore, it needs the synchronicity and accuracy in welcoming Halal guests. It especially needs the engagement of experts on Muslims’ beliefs, religions, and lifestyles to give advice, training, inspection and certification. Once trust is gained, Muslim tourists will introduce the place to each other, spread and share within the Muslim community. This is a long-term sustainable benefit that Vietnamese tourism needs to target and take advantage of.

Currently, only Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are the main tourist destinations for Halal tourists. Mr. Nguyen Trung Khanh, Director of the Vietnam National Authority of Tourism under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that in Vietnam, Islamic tourism has yet to receive due attention and investment. Neither have the specific needs for Muslim tourists.

Moreover, there is only one prayer room for Muslims at airports in Vietnam. The Halal food court at Ho Chi Minh City-based Tan Son Nhat International Airport completed in December 2022 serves only 70 VIPs and business class guests who are Muslims. This number is relatively small compared to the thousands of Muslim tourists each day. In Ho Chi Minh City, among current 14 mosques, only 3 mosques are located in the central area, convenient for tourists to pray.

When Tien Yen chicken is included in Halal food

Developing Halal tourism is one of Quang Ninh tourism's efforts to attract international tourists. Recently, for the first time, the provincial Department of Tourism coordinated with DeLaSea Ha Long Hotel to professionally welcome 28 members of a Muslim tourist delegation from India in Ha Long city.

For the first time, Quang Ninh's typical ingredients were introduced to foreign tourists in Halal style. Tourists excitedly enjoyed Tien Yen chicken curry, Ha Lagoon fish curry, crispy Quang Ninh fried squid with curry powder, to name but a few.

Mr. Hosen Yousof, Business Development Director of National Halal Vietnam, advisor to Halal kitchen for DeLaSea Ha Long Hotel, said that Muslim tourists also like to experience new foods, especially seafood, vegetables, organic farm produce which are Vietnam's advantages. He added that if these advantages are taken into account on the basis of respecting Muslims’ beliefs and culture, Vietnam in general and Quang Ninh in particular will become alluring destinations for Muslim tourists.

Given the fact that recently, the influx of Muslim tourists looking for information about Vietnam has increased by thousand folds and the increase in the number of Muslim tourists to Ha Long and Northern Vietnam, Director of Delasea Ha Long Hotel Le Thanh Tam said that his hotel has dared to change parts of its high-level tourism services to welcome this influx of visitors.

One month before welcoming the aforementioned delegation, DeLaSea had worked with National Halal Vietnam to arrange Muslim-friendly services. Receptionists, room service staff, kitchen staff were trained under the instruction of experts to be ready to meet essential needs of this new influx of tourists in a professional and thoughtful manner.

At the conference, other suggestions to help Quang Ninh tap Halal tourism potential included the further popularization of tourist attractions, such as Ha Long Bay heritage, among Muslims tourists in general and Indian tourists in particular.

Ms. Nguyen Huyen Anh, Deputy Director of the provincial Department of Tourism, suggested the changes in facilities, business exploitation trends in the direction of Muslims friendliness; tourism promotion to Muslim tourist markets; development of direct flights to India and Muslim countries; development of infrastructure and services; and invitation of experts to train tourism human resources on Islamic culture, among others.

Translated by Mai Huong