You might have heard the terms Halal travel and Muslim-friendly travel being used interchangeably and even on this website, we use them as such.
However, I personally think there should be a distinction between the two, we receive comments about when is one applicable and when the other.
I know in the travel industry, experts, agents and bloggers will use them based on their own assumptions and demand, but for me, I would like to point how I personally distinguish between the two terms.
Please find this is my opinion – it is similar to others in the travel industry- if you don’t agree it’s totally OK and you can, of course, comment with your own interpretation.
The Halal travel industry is still a very young and lucrative industry so it is good to develop terms that the general public knows how to use from the get-go.
The Muslim Traveler
Muslim travelers are those travelers who are distinguished based on their faith as Muslim. Whether they are visibly Muslim due to wearing a hijab, having a beard or not it doesn’t matter.
If you are a Muslim you belong to the cool category of Muslim traveller.
Some of the needs of Muslim travellers have to do with their prayers, their food restrictions and of course the opportunity to find options that will cater to these needs while travelling.
What is Halal Travel?
So what is really Halal travel?
Many times when I post about Halal travel destinations people are quick to point a problem with them.
Let me tell you that personally after travelling to 30+ countries there is no one halal travel destination that fits them all.
For me, Halal travel means catering to Muslim travellers’ needs in a purely halal environment, which in today’s world is very hard.
Even Muslim countries will have alcohol options available in hotels and restaurants which therefore makes them non-halal for many strict Muslims.
In my opinion, Halal travel environment should have the following:
- Muslim country
- No alcohol
- Serve only Halal food
- Have prayer facilities easily available
- Not having options such as music, nudity etc
This makes it increasingly difficult to actually find countries to fit this bracket in the true form of Halal travel.
I can potentially put in this category the two Holy cities of Makkah and Medinah because they do tick all the boxes and Saudi Arabia in general.
A close second potentially will be Kuwait which is also a dry country that doesn’t serve alcohol but non-hijabis /less clothing can be seen from expats to some degree.
Therefore using the term halal travel strictly we will struggle to travel.
What is Muslim-Friendly Travel?
Now, Muslim-friendly travel which is a much broader term and for me it covers 90% if not more of the travel options available to Muslim travellers.
Personally Muslim-Friendly countries are those countries that that are welcoming Muslim travellers, that have some facilities that are preferred by them such as food/prayer options or even privacy in accommodation.
In my opinion, Muslim-Friendly travel environment should have some of the following:
- Be accepting of Muslim travellers (being friendly to tourists)
- Places to pray
- Halal food option in the country/city
- Privacy for hijab-free holidays/accommodation for Muslims
Let me say this, in my 30+ countries I have travelled over the past decade as a Muslim I have never found a city that doesn’t serve halal food.
Yes, prayer facilities can be harder to find although when there are Muslims there is halal food and prayer for sure.
Even the smallest cities like Bologna in Italy I walked out of my hotel to find a halal shop next to it. I definitely didn’t expect that!
Another example of this is Greece. Until now Greece doesn’t have an official mosque, they are building one to open for Ramadan 2019 which is fantastic.
Greece has several thousand Muslims living in the country from Greek Muslims, second-generation Muslim immigrants from 30 years with Greek passports to new economic immigrants from Asian countries.
There are underground and “unofficial mosques” in basements, park parks and other places. You could find them but it wasn’t very easy as a tourist in the country.
However, the demand from Muslims for halal food has given several options for halal restaurants in Athens. Therefore if you had to look you would find halal food there but your prayer would be missing/hard to find from the “Halal travel” version.
As a Muslim traveller, you are flexible whether to pray in a mosque when travelling, however, I like visiting them as they are such a great way to meet and talk to locals.
With this version of the definition of Muslim-friendly travel, there are so many countries that can be classed and explored by Muslims around the world. You will always find one to tick some of the boxes above.
I haven’t found non-welcoming countries that will create a big problem for Muslims, even the US is still Muslim-friendly.
There are 3.5 million Muslims living in the US and hundreds of thousands of Muslim travellers visit the country every year.
Of course, there might be cases of racism or discrimination but I find that these incidents are small and should not stop Muslims from travelling and exploring the world.
Say, [O Muhammad], “Travel through the land and observe how He began creation. Then Allah will produce the final creation. Indeed Allah, over all things, is competent.” (29:20)
For me the definition of Muslim-friendly travel is much more freeing and true to the spirit of Islam when it comes to exploring the world, meeting fellow people from all walks of life.
You are not restricted by the halal food options or the prayer facilities (although nice to have) but you are enjoying exploring the world that Allah SWT created for all.
This definition comes closer to what MuslimTravelGirl.com is about, helping you explore the world without breaking the bank and by becoming confident Muslim travellers.
Why Muslim-Friendly Travel and not Halal travel?
The younger generation of Muslim Millennials and Generation Z are becoming more aware of the benefits of Muslim-friendly travel.
They explore countries and cities that are not predominantly Muslim but rather they have the ability to explore and develop their confidence in places that they want to visit without the restriction of halal. Of course, I will mention again 99% of countries will offer and have halal restaurants in the city!
When we go out of our comfort zone and travel to non-Muslim countries in a Muslim-friendly travel holiday we represent Muslims, we break barriers, we explore and meet people who know we are Muslims and the stereotype gets removed.
We grow in our love for Islam and are representatives of our religion for the fellow travellers and locals we meet.
It is so much deeper than just the obligations of Muslims.
Making the travel market more Muslim-friendly
One thing that has become very clear even from communication and work with small hotels around the world is that hotels and brands are paying attention.
When there is demand from Muslim travellers for services specifically catering to their needs the supply will follow because they are paying customers.
So in essence Muslim travellers exploring non-Muslim countries are raising awareness of their needs and businesses are becoming to cater to those needs because they do want the repeat custom of Muslim travellers.
After all, the Halal travel / Muslim-friendly travel market is worth $200 billion and it is meant to reach $300billions by 2030!
I would be happy to hear your opinions and ideas on this just please make sure you keep the comments nice. 🙂