The Japanese hospitality industry is undergoing major structural changes these days. Up until 2010, it used to receive massive number of Chinese visitors who would keep the industry busy all year round. However, due to a plethora of factors including the slowing down of the Chinese economy and rising tensions between China and Japan, the number of Chinese tourists to Japan has decreased dramatically.
To compensate for the loss of foreign tourists from China, Japan has been looking elsewhere. This time. both the Japanese government and the private sector have been looking eastward to grab a growing share of the Muslim tourism market all over the world. Islam, being the fastest growing religion in the world, now accounts for about 25% of the world population. Many wealthy Muslim tourists are visiting foreign countries for entertainment, business etc. Japan wants to get a major chunk of this affluent market. For the purpose, they have been getting ready to understand how to please the Muslim tourists in terms of food they get at places of stay while in Japan and the means to satisfy their other religious needs while in the country.
Most of the industry players have been attending Halal seminars, Muslim cultural events, other local and international hospitality events related to Muslims. This phenomenon is especially prevalent among large hotels, international-minded restaurants, famous places of attraction, major aiports and centers of business, entertainments etc.
Japan has been leveraging its unique cultural and cultural attractions, boutique and budget-minded hotels, amazing restaurants, great shopping and, of course, world-class wonders and other entertainment centers like Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Skytree, Mount Fuji etc. to attract Muslim visitors, especially South East Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia. To help increase the number of Muslim tourists from countries, it has eased visa procedure for these countries, helped establish halal-friendly hotels and restaurants all over Japan. However, despite all these points, it still is facing some challenges to grow the foreign tourism industry in full swing.
However, due to many cultural differences, between the Japanese and Muslims, the halal industry in Japan is still facing some unique challenges which must be addressed soon before the country can fully embrace the ‘halal’ concept to attract much larger number of Muslim visitors from foreign countries.
In the next instalment of the essay, we will Inshallah look into detail the challenges the Japanese tourism industry is facing in terms of ‘halal tourism and then suggest ways to handle these issues.