Halal food for the travel industry as Muslim tourists grow

By Quintus Perera
One of the major causes for the high incidence of serious illnesses like heart attacks and strokes is over-eating. The health aspect and consuming wholesome food has become the concern of the Halal industry (Islamic food) and also some big international companies have shown greater concern.

The second Halal Conference and Exhibition, Halal Expo 2011 was held in Colombo last week and it encompasses the entire Halal industry and companies and individuals from sectors such as food and beverages, Islamic Banking and finance, travel and tourism, education and lifestyle were represented at this first-ever event held in Sri Lanka.

Before the opening of the exhibition, a press briefing was held and after the briefing, Fazal Bahardeen, CEO, Crescentrating Ltd, a global market leader of Halal friendly-food for the travel industry, told the Business Times that what the industry is now looking at is basically Halal to be wholesome food.

He said that in Islam there is a very important place for food but he said that what has happened is that people are over-eating. Prophetic advice from an Islamic point of view says that, the stomach should be filled with 1/3rd of solid food, 1/3rd water and 1/3rd air.

He said that what they are trying to do is to encourage companies not just to push Halal food but to go beyond and to educate the consumers what is good food for health and what is bad. He said that in fact some big companies are considering to make their products to be more health conscious, but it is a major challenge as all the people tend to eat more than required.

During the press briefing Mr Bahardeen said that for the Halal industry the last 12 months was particularly important and said that Halal friendly tourism has now become a multi-billion dollar industry and the Middle-East displayed the highest growth among all the market segments. He said that if affluent travelers spend US $ 1,000 per day, the Middle-Eastern travelers would spend US $ 1,500 or more.

He said that countries and large companies around the globe have shown great interest in focusing their attention to the Islamic market , in adjusting their businesses and services to align with the Muslim lifestyle in all areas, food, banking, education, travel etc.

He said that the media has started to speak about the Halal industry increasingly and this is changing the dynamics of the industry in the coming years. He said that major research houses are getting interested in the industry and Google has created a search for Halal and it would be expanded in the coming years. He said that companies are searching for how best their products to be targeted for Islamic market.

He said that now ‘Halal’ is going beyond the food and banking and it is actually the Muslim lifestyle and said that the Islamic market is being looked at seriously, representing today 23% of the world population who are Muslims. There are 1.59 billion Muslims in the world and their growth would be doubled in the next 20 to 30 years, growing to an estimated 26.4% out of the world population.

The requirements of this population should have to be looked into. Things like medical facilities, IT, Logistics, financial market and the value to that community have to be recognized and integrated solutions should be found. The Halal food market is US $ 650 billion out of a world figure of US $ 1,2 trillion in 2010 and consumption by Muslims would be 1/5th of the world food market and thus businesses have to change their strategies accordingly.

He said that Sri Lanka also has potential to be a hub to South Asia in this field and said that countries like Thailand, Hong Kong and Australia now entice Arab tourists who comprise a significant business segment. Sri Lanka should take the cue from such countries, he said. A.H.M, Senior Minister for Urban Affairs declared opened the Halal Exhibition – Halal Expo 2011.

Fazal Bahardeen will be speaking on Halal Friendly Tourism and the 6th World Halal Forum, 4-5 April 2011, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, Malaysia: www.worldhalalforum.org