News From : DagangHalal.com (05 Jul 2009)
The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has offered about 40 travel agents and guides a lecture on Islamic culture and introduced a Halal food lunchbox and tour programs tailor-made for Muslims in a bid to attract more Muslim tourists here.
Hanyang University professor Lee Hee-soo gave an orientation on how Muslims in the Middle East and Southeast Asia have developed their traditions on food and other living styles, such as eating meat only from certain animals slaughtered in a special way.
Annie Yu, director of an inbound travel agency Plaza 21 Plus, has been arranging programs for travelers from Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. But the director acknowledged, “I learned that I’ve been so ignorant of Islamic culture even though I have developed tour programs for Muslim travelers.”
The biggest obstacle to attracting Muslim tourists is strict rules on food and prayer, the agents said. It is not easy to prepare “Halal food” in this non-Islamic country and ensure tourists can pray in the direction of Mecca five times a day.
“Halal restaurants are very rare here, and there are almost none outside Seoul, Busan and Jeju. So we take Muslim travelers to seafood restaurants, Indian or Pakistani eateries, or vegetarian restaurants,” said Bob Lee, sales manager and guide at Jacky Travel Service.
Bill Yi, a freelance guide, said, “Some tourists do not eat food even at vegetarian restaurants, thinking the chefs may use the same knife in cutting both vegetables and meat slaughtered in a non-Halal way. Some bring their own food with them, such as noodles, and eat only them.”
To cope with the food trouble, the KTO held a sampling party of a Halal food lunchbox.
“It is `Korea-style Halal’ lunchbox. As ordinary Korean restaurants do not offer Halal meat, it was not easy for Muslim visitors to try Korean foods like `bulgogi,’ which they learned about through Korean movies and dramas. So, the lunchbox was designed to provide Muslim travelers with Halal food and to publicize Korean food at the same time,” Joo Sung-hee, a KTO manager, said.
For prayer, the agents usually ask Halal restaurants to prepare a space for Muslim tourists, Lee said. Joo said only a few tourist destinations, including Everland and Nami Island, have prayer rooms.
The KTO recently opened a prayer room at the Tourism Information Center on the first basement floor of its headquarters, so that Muslim tourists can visit. The carpeted room has a compass showing the direction of Mecca.
The tourism body also introduced a program at Bukchon Hanok Village near Insa-dong, in which visitors can try a traditional Korean way of dyeing with indigo plant. “After dyeing cloth, Muslim women travelers can use it as hijab,” Joo said.
She said that people from the Middle East are usually family tourists, enjoying shopping and visiting hallyu destinations and theme parks. Their interest in medical tourism here is also growing. Many from Southeast Asia are incentive traveler groups, and they prefer seasonal attractions, such as skiing in winter and flower festivals in spring, she said.
“We believe the Muslim market with a 1.3 billion population has good potential. We hope the lecture and the programs we offered today will help attract more Muslim travelers,” Joo said.
By Kim Rahn, Staff Reporter | [email protected]