With Muslims making up an approximate 24% of the world population, it doesn’t come as a surprise that halal tourism continues to gain traction across the globe.
According to the Halal Travel 2016 report by Amadeus, Muslim travellers are expected to grow to 150 million visitors by 2020. Meanwhile, expenditure from this market segment is expected to rise from $150 billion (RM630 billion) in 2014 to $200 billion (RM840 billion) by 2020.
With such a lucrative target market, more and more counties are catering to the needs of Muslim travellers. Some destinations, of course, are better than others.
If you are planning an overseas trip soon, here are 7 ‘not so obvious’ Muslim-friendly holiday destinations that you should consider visiting.
Many people, especially here in Malaysia, has this misconception that Iran isn’t a safe place to visit. No, they are not currently in a war and is, in fact, a peaceful place which is safe for travellers.
Being an Islamic country, Muslim visitors would naturally fit in well here. However, if they seek entertainment, fashion, concerts, and parties, that can easily be found too.
Another misconception is that Iran is just a huge desert. In reality, though, there is plenty to discover from stunning landscapes, beautiful architecture, snowy mountains, lush forests, and world-class hospitality.
Top attractions include the ancient ruins of Persepolis, the grand Naqshe Jahan Square in Isfahan, the Azadi Tower in Tehran, skiing at Shemshak, watersports at Kish, carpet shopping at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar among countless others beautiful mosques and museums.
Click here for more information on Iranian tourism.
Muslims only make up a small portion of the Japanese society and Islam still is thought of a distant, alien culture to the average people. However, authorities and businesses have recognised how important and lucrative Muslim tourism is and have stepped up their efforts to accommodate this community.
The London-based market research company Technavio says that the Japan halal food market was estimated to be worth about $200 (RM840 million) in 2015. There are over 22 halal certification bodies in the country and the number of mosques and hotel rooms with qibla markers is also increasing.
With the Muslim-friendly concern put to rest, who wouldn’t want to visit Japan? It is a land with a vibrant blend of ancient history, unique culture, breathtaking natural beauty, and advanced technology.
Top attractions include the stunning Mount Fuji, the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Tower in Tokyo, Himeji Castle in Himeji, Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya among many others.
Click here for information on tourism in Japan.
3. Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is considered by many to be a jewel in Asia’s crown. Other than a large number of crystal clear beaches and beautiful landscapes, it also offers plenty of interesting attractions, especially for animal lovers. This place is home to several amazing wildlife such as blue whales, elephants, leopards, and sloth bears just to mention a few.
There are many Muslim-friendly facilities in the country such as mosques and even international chain restaurants are halal-certified.
Top attractions include the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya, the Temple of Tooth in Kandy, Dutch Fort in Galle, the quaint hill stations Nuwara Eliya and Elle in Central Provinces and stunning beaches at Mirissa and Bentota among many others.
Click here for more information on Sri Lankan tourism.
4. Bosnia and Herzegovina
This region of The Balkans has become a popular tourist destination for its splendid natural landscapes and interesting historical and cultural experiences. And if you thought tourists are still sceptical about visiting this country owing to its tumultuous past, let us surprise you a bit — the World Tourism Organisation has projected Bosnia and Herzegovina as one of only three countries with overall tourism market growth potential in excess of 10% annually through 2020.
The top attractions in this Balkan wonderland include the scenic Sarajevo, the marvellous mountain village Lukomir, the amazing Sutjeska National Park, the Ottoman old town of Mostar, the Adriatic beach town Neum, Prokosko Lake and the jaw-droppingly beautiful Una National Park.
Islam is one of the predominant religions in Bosnia. This way, Muslim travellers can even visit beautiful mosques which were built several centuries ago. It also won’t be hard to find halal food as there is an abundance of Muslim-owned eateries throughout the county. However, there is no recognised official body that provides certification and some outlets do serve alcohol.
Click here for more information on tourism destinations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As previously mentioned, halal travel shouldn’t mean you are only limited to Muslim countries. Germany is generally very accepting of Muslims and the Islamic community have managed to thrive and assimilate well.
Germany is a country that has been at the heart of Europe for centuries. It has a unique culture which has been shaped from historical influences, and although the cuisine is not as popular as some of its neighbouring countries, it still has its fair share of delicacies!
The transport system is one of the best in the world and many people speak English.
The top attractions include Brandenburg Gate and Museum Island in Berlin, the unbelievable Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria, the astonishing Black Forest in Baden-Württemberg province, the historic Port of Hamburg, the ethereal Rhine Valley, the Cologne Cathedral, the Flower Island of Lake Constance Insel Mainau, among many others.
Click here for more information on tourism in Germany.
6. Kashmir and Ladakh
Kashmir is known as “paradise on earth” and for very good reason too! It is home to some of the most beautiful scenery known to man. Spending time in their mountains, hills, lakes, and rivers will make you want to never leave.
Compared to other places in India, food in Kashmir is mostly meat-based. From mutton balls cooked in curd and meats grilled for hours on end, the food in Kashmir has tons of spices and flavour!
Top attractions include boating on the Dal Lake and witnessing the beauty of Tulip Garden in Srinagar, the ski resorts of Gulmarg and Sonmarg, the gorgeous Pahalgam, among many others. Nature lovers can also head to the amazing Ladakh, a high-altitude Himalayan desert region known for its breathtaking landscapes, beautiful monasteries and some unbelievably pretty mountainous lakes like Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri.
Click here for more information.
This North African country is fast becoming a mecca for tourists from all over the world. It is renowned for its great food, unique culture, and friendly locals. The landscapes themselves are magnificent. Morocco features both seas and mountains and is home to the full range of Mediterranean climates, which surrender to the sands of the Sahara.
Morocco is considered the 5th safest country among the tourist destinations studied, tied with Japan and Canada, according to a ranking established by the British magazine “Which? Travel”. On top of that, the thousand-year-old city of Marrakesh has even been designated as the African Capital of Culture 2020.
Top attractions include Djemaa el Fna Square in Marrakesh, the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the cultural town of Fes, the beautiful town of Chefchaouen, the Roman ruins of Volubilis, the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, the mesmerizing Dades Valley among many others.
Click here for more information on Moroccan destinations.
Also read: Top 10 Must-See Attractions in South Korea!
How to save more on your international travel expenses
If you’re already in the groove and trying to figure out which destination to choose for your next vacation, there are a few important things that we must point out.
Air tickets to international destinations can be expensive, and using an airmiles credit card will definitely come in handy when you book your tickets. The air miles you earn with your regular spends charged to the card are converted to frequent flyer programme miles (like Enrich Miles, KrisFlyer Miles, AirAsia BIG points, etc.) which can be redeemed for discounted flight tickets, seat upgrades, complimentary travel insurance and, based on the air miles you’ve accumulated, even free tickets!
For example, the Citi PremierMiles Visa Credit Card (full review here) gets you 1 PremierMile for every RM3 spent on local transactions, and 2 PremierMiles for every overseas spend and purchases made with participating online travel merchants. You’ll also get 10,000 never-expiring PremierMiles as a bonus when you pay the annual fees of RM636. Your pool of PremierMiles can then be redeemed at the rate of 1500 PremierMiles for 1000 FFP miles with over 90 partnering airlines!
Even the Alliance Bank Visa Infinite (full review here) gets you 5x never-expiring Timeless Bonus Points on overseas transactions and 2x TBPs for local spends. You can then redeem 6,000 TBPs for 1,000 Enrich Miles and 3,000 TBPs for 1,000 AirAsia BIG Points. You also get travel accident & inconvenience insurance up to RM2 million and travel medical expenses coverage up to RM50,000.
Also, the Standard Chartered WorldMiles World Mastercard (full review here) gives you 3 WorldMiles for every RM2 spent overseas and 1 WorldMile for every RM3 spent locally. The FFP mile conversion rate stands at 2 WorldMiles for 1 Asia Miles, KrisFlyer Mile, Enrich Mile, or AirAsia BIG Point.
Check out the full list of our top picks when it comes to travel credit cards in Malaysia.
And if you’re on the lookout for a new credit card, our ongoing promotion might interest you. Get up to RM500 worth Petron Gift Voucher and Touch'N'Go card, absolutely FREE,, when you apply for a Citi, Alliance Bank or Standard Chartered Bank credit card, right here on BBazaar! APPLY TODAY! T&Cs apply.
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