Halal food drive starts


Thai restaurants are being urged to improve the quality of their food
to meet stringent Muslim standards in order to better serve that
growing tourist segment.

According to Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kohsurat,
Thai restaurants could gain more income if they improve food quality to
halal standards.

Currently, only 30 restaurants in five provinces meet the Halal
Food Services Standard for Tourism, developed by the Tourism Authority
of Thailand and the Halal Standard Institute of Thailand.

Tourist arrivals from the Middle East have risen steadily over
the years. In 2007, visitors from the region rose 20% year-on-year to
453,891. They spent an average of 9.48 days in Thailand, with per
capita spending of 4,276.14 per day.

For the first five months this year, Middle East visitors via
Suvarnabhumi airport totalled 67,993, up 16.6% from the same period
last year. The TAT is forecasting Middle East visitors to total 476,900
this year and 482,200 next year.

The statistics exclude the two million visitors from other
countries with large Muslim populations including Malaysia, Indonesia
and India.

According to Thanitta Maneechote, director of the Tourism
Development Office, the TAT is preparing to approach more restaurants,
particularly on tourist routes, to encourage them to adopt halal
standards. It expects to see a total of 80 halal-certified restaurants
next year.