Extensive facilities and activities awaiting Muslim travellers
Halal tourism in Thailand is an emerging market with the sector growing globally especially in Southeast Asia and Europe.
With 585,633 tourists from the Middle East last year, the Thai Halal tourism industry maintains its focus to provide Muslim travellers all facilities in line with Islam. The figures provided by the Tourism Authority of Thailand reflect the growth of the niche industry.
The service industry players are keen to accommodate tourists so that their needs are met with regards to dining, prayer time and activities.
One such example is the Al Meroz Hotel in Bangkok, which is situated close to the Foundation of Islamic Centre of Thailand, which offers religious services and guidance to Muslims.
The hotel’s accommodation, dining and leisure facilities have been especially created to ensure the comfort and wellbeing of Muslim guests. Visitors can expect the warmth and hospitality for which Thailand is renowned while being serviced by staff trained and attired in the Muslim tradition. A Mediterranean restaurant Barakat and an all-day family dining restaurant Diwan offer delicious Halal-certified cuisines in a non-alcoholic environment. In addition to special facilities for female guests, transportation to main tourist attractions and downtown shopping areas is conveniently close by.
With its status as a top destination among visitors with vast attractions, Thailand and its people, attracts visitors from around the world. The top destinations in the country for Muslim travellers are Ayutthaya, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chon Buri, Khon Kaen, Krabi, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phang Nga, Phetchaburi, Phuket, Satun, Songkhla and Trang.
Many of these destinations have large Muslim communities and Halal facilities as well. The Muslim community make up approximately 6-10 per cent of Thailand’s population of 65 million.
They are scattered across the country with the majority residing in Bangkok and Southern provinces, making it convenient for travellers to find a great selection of Halal food and services.
A good example of multicultural society can be found around the Nongjok District at the East side of Bangkok, bordering Chachoengsao and Pathumthani Provinces. Being the largest district in Bangkok with the majority of people being Muslims, this area has the highest number of mosques in Bangkok. The familiar sight of Buddhist temples standing alongside mosques can be seen every day as there are no boundaries between races in Thailand. During Ramadan, both sides of the streets are lined with Halal food stalls during night time and mosques are beautifully lit.
Another notable example of religious harmony and pluralism can be seen at Wat Tha Ka Rong, a Buddhist temple, located on the bank of Chao Praya River, among five mosques and a large Muslim community. A lively floating market nearby is a popular tourist attraction in Ayutthaya.
Officially, the Shaikhul Islam of Thailand is the highest Islamic authority and the advisor on Islamic affairs to the Royal Thai Government. A position with a history of 400 years, the current office-holder is Hajji Aziz Phitakkumpon.
The Halal food sector is overseen by the Central Laboratory and Scientific Information Centre for Halal Food Development. The core mission of the entity is to provide analysis of any contamination against Islamic law in raw materials, and finished products supplied for the Halal food market.
The standard for Halal food and services for tourism has been issued by the Ministry of Sports in conjunction with the Central Islamic Council of Thailand since 2007. This has raised the standard of tourism and ensured no shortages of Halal restaurants for travellers.
Moreover, the world’s first science center of Halal – the Science Center of Halal at Chulalangkorn has a history stretching back over two decades, and develops Halal science and technology. Such unique bodies further cement Thailand’s dedication and interest to promoting itself as a prime destination for Muslim travellers.
In the field of medical tourism, several hospitals have set up facilities to Muslim patients from the Middle East and other Muslim countries. By this year, the Ministry of Health has plans for 50 hospitals in the Southern region to incorporate a 100% standard Halal kitchen. Notable mentions include the Satun Hospital and the Bumrungrand International Hospital.
Bumrungrad International, considered one of the best hospitals in all of Southeast Asia, serves 1.1 patients annually, including over 520,000 international patients.
Overall, Thailand looks all set for developing Halal tourism in line with the government’s plans to better serve the growing numbers of Muslim travellers.