Halal Tourism, Iran’s Competitive Advantage
Today, tourism is one of the most paid industries and different countries with their own competitive advantage try to enter the competitive campaign of this industry and represent their own attractive proposals for tourists. As suppliers of this industry, countries and cities provide their own specific services to specific clients according to the clients’ ideologies and religious and cultural values; so that this tourist attraction helps them to take advantage of the benefits of this industry.
Today, tourism is one of the most paid industries and different countries with their own competitive advantage try to enter the competitive campaign of this industry and represent their own attractive proposals for tourists. As suppliers of this industry, countries and cities provide their own specific services to specific clients according to the clients' ideologies and religious and cultural values; so that this tourist attraction helps them to take advantage of the benefits of this industry. One type of tourism which recently is very popular is 'Halal Tourism'. Some officials such as the director of the Tourism and Cultural Heritage Organization as well as the President and Ministers recently emphasized on funding for this type of tourism which made proponents and opponents of this hot topic to debate on that. But the first questions that pop in minds are "what is halal tourism?", "why halal tourism has been created?", and "what is the difference between halal
tourism with other types of tourism?"
Halal Brand and Muslim's Tourism Development
One of the problems for Muslims in the tourism industry has always been that despite encouraging people to travel and see the world according to Islam, the cultural structure in so many countries contains very different rules from existing rules that are prohibited in Islam and basically there are different aspects of travelling from Islamic point of view. Having these goals and incentives, Muslims encounter many travel restrictions, such as finding halal food, serving alcoholic drinks in a large scale and mix places for men and women everywhere which brings restrictions for Muslim people; these cases lead to some limitations on their trips. On the other hand, large number of Muslims causes movements in order to solve these problems and use these limitations as a tool in the tourism industry. Emergence of halal brand was one of the solutions to this issue which has been created by establishing some standards on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). This brand is a type of standard which grants standard sign to the products one can use as halal, and this standard logo indicates that using these products such as food is halal according to the sharia law. After using halal logo on foods and products, using that on restaurants and some recreational centers was promoted as a sign to show these centers are compliant with halal laws. This brand has been widely welcomed by Muslims because their problems in tourism industry led to defining Islamic and halal areas of tourism; this is a kind of tourism which proposes places to Muslims that are called halal based on the principles of sharia. The point is that halal tourism does not only mean using religious places during the journey; but it means that Muslims can enjoy all kinds of entertainments which are not incompatible with Sharia principles.
Turkey: A Successful Example
Using this type of tourism and appropriate marketing for it could attract lots of Muslims to countries like Malaysia and Turkey who have proposed it, and established good models in creating an appropriate environment for this kind of tourism. Turkey is one of the countries that have been successful in the field of tourism and it has been among top 10 countries which hosted so many tourists in recent years and offered halal tourism. This country has high potentials such as geographical location, climate, nature, multicultural demographic structure, and historical diversity. All of these several factors have made Turkey capable of attracting tourists. Halal tourism is one type of tourism that Turkey invested on. In doing so, Turkey has built special hotels where legal rules are being respected; cases like separate beaches for men and women, serving halal food, serving non-alcoholic beverages in coffee shops and banning photography at the beach.
Important Variables and Iran's Merits
But hotels are only one of the halal variables. According to the experts, there are six variables in order to create a halal environment, including: catering, hospitality, sightseeing attractions, products and markets, travel and transportation services. Countries that offer halal tourism services do it according to the Islamic law. World Tourism Organization statistics demonstrate that this type of tourism has been very welcomed and has been developed remarkably in recent years. Knowing this thread, this question pops in minds that whether or not Iran is a good place to develop this type of tourism?With a thorough review of Iran's competitive advantage in tourism one can say despite underinvestment in developing required infrastructure, in comparison with countries such as Turkey and Malaysia, Iran can supply tourism services in three dimensions of religious places, historic places and four season nature.
Iran's competitive advantage in offering and providing halal tourism and serve the customers is that due to the existence of Islamic rules in the country, there is less need for hotels and special events to plan for these kind of tourists, because all hotels, restaurants and resorts are by default compliance with halal rules. Thus, Iran can represent and offer religious and historic places as well as natural resorts to these tourists. Another available offer for these customers is holding special events for religious occasions, such as Ramadan and Muharram, but these events and tourism programs based on them should be on the principle of unity among Islamic sects; because non-observance of this principle leads to reducing tourists from other Islamic sects. A significant point in halal tourism is that while dealing with these types of customers, one should not put all the eggs in one basket, because other attractions of the country, especially national, cultural and historical attractions of Iran are unique and have the ability to attract the tourists from all over the world. It is hoped that investment and appropriate planning in this section can pave the way for an industry to make the future belong to us.