Thursday, July 7, 2016
Korea to foster halal industry to draw Muslim tourists
Korea will step up efforts to increase certified halal foods and restaurants to enhance convenience for a growing number of Muslim tourists from the Middle East and Southeast Asian nations, the government said Thursday.
Halal food refers to food products that are prepared in a specific way according to Islamic Sharia law, which covers not only meat but also fruits and vegetables.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism unveiled a set of measures to foster the halal food industry and enhance infrastructure for Muslim travelers in a trade and investment promotion meeting chaired by President Park Geun-hye.
Korea has welcomed a growing influx of Muslim travelers thanks to the rising popularity of Korean pop culture and medical tourists from the Middle East.
"The number of tourists from the Middle East has steadily increased with the help of the Korean Wave over the past years," the ministry said in a release. "We have to enhance the tourism infrastructure to attract more tourists from the Middle East and Southeast Asian nations in the wake of the lifting of sanctions on Iran."
The number of Muslim tourists has risen from 540,000 in 2012 to 750,000 in 2014. The tourism industry projects the number could go up to 800,000 this year.
As availability of halal food is considered one of the most important things for Muslim travelers, the government said it will work with halal business communities to expand the number of certified foods and restaurants available in the nation.
Currently, only 12 restaurants are officially certified by the Korea Muslim Federation, with eight located in Seoul.
The state-run Korea Tourism Organization has introduced a guidebook on "Muslim-friendly restaurants," but many of them are located in the Seoul metropolitan area.
As part of efforts to expand halal menus in major tourism attractions and hospitals, the government said it will publish a recipe book to show how to make Korean foods in accordance with the Islamic law.
It also plans to help Korean chicken soup and barbecue get halal certifications to export them in the Middle Eastern market.
To further draw tourists, the government will push for easing visa regulations for tourists from countries that don't have terrorist ties.
The tourism ministry said it will encourage major airports, hotels and tourism attractions to set up prayer rooms for the convenience of Muslim tourists for their daily rituals. There are 32 prayer rooms in hotels nationwide.