Emirates Airline’s launch last month of a direct flight between Taipei and Dubai has motivated more five-star hotels to offer Muslim-friendly cuisine to welcome tourists from the Middle East, with seven hotels receiving halal certification from the Tourism Bureau yesterday — four in Taipei, one in New Taipei City, one in Hualien and one in Chiayi. Thirteen other hotels and restaurants received certifications yesterday.
Halal refers to an object or an action that is acceptable for use according to Islamic law. To be certified, a restaurant must use ingredients from certified halal food suppliers, among other requirements.
The Taipei-based Chinese Muslim Association, which certifies businesses for the bureau, said the Taipei-Dubai direct flight was a great incentive for five-star hotels to provide Muslim-friendly dining.
“Because of the direct flight service, the airline will start seeking partner hotels in Taiwan,” association secretary-general Salahuding Ma (馬超彥) said.
“The Tourism Bureau met with the management of some of these five-star hotels and talked about the business potential brought by Muslim tourists. We believe that it is an important milestone that more five-star hotels are tapping into the Muslim tourism market,” Ma said.
He also said that Taiwan is the only country in the region with Muslim-friendly food in one of its international airports — in both terminals of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, he added.
China has about 100 million Muslims, he said, but travelers cannot find halal food in Beijing Capital International Airport.
Ma said that another reason behind the Taipei-Dubai flight was that Dubai aims to become a halal products trading center and sees Taiwan as an important halal food supply hub in Northeast Asia.
“China has food-safety issues. Both Japan and South Korea support the development of big corporations, which leaves them with little flexibility to reach small niche markets. It is relatively easier to set up a halal food supply chain in Taiwan, with many of its small and medium-sized businesses,” Ma said.
Taiwan has 50 certified halal restaurants, including those receiving certification yesterday.
Bureau Deputy Director-General Wayne Liu (劉喜臨) said there are about 1.7 billion Muslims around the world, who spend about US$14 billion a year on tourism.
Liu said that Taiwan received about 160,000 Muslim tourists last year, bringing US$256 million in revenue. Prior to the launch of the direct flight to Dubai, Liu said Muslim tourists came from Muslim countries in Asia, such as Malaysia.
Liu said the nation hoped to attract about 200,000 Muslim tourists this year, which could generate tourism revenue of about US$300 million.
Hotels such as Regent Taipei and Landis Taipei have also added facilities such as signs pointing in the direction of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that Muslims should face during prayers and prayer schedules.
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