Indonesia seeks bigger share of global halal tourism

Nurul Bilad Mandalika Grand Mosque in Mandalika, Lombok. (Photo courtesy Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation)
Updated 22 September 2017
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Indonesia seeks bigger share of global halal tourism

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government is looking to boost the country’s image as a halal tourism destination for Muslims from around the world.
The drive is part of the government’s efforts to boost state coffers and meet its 5.2 percent growth target this year. President Joko Widodo promised 7 percent economic growth rate on the campaign trail in 2014. The tourism sector contributed 4.23 percent of the country’s GDP in 2016.
The Muslim travel market is one of the fastest-growing segments in the global travel industry, according to the MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2017, which was released in May.
The GMTI predicted that the Muslim travel market will be worth $220 billion by 2020 and $300 billion by 2026, spurred by Muslim-friendly amenities and easy access to travel information.
Around 121 million Muslims traveled internationally during 2016 — an increase of 4 million from the previous year. It is estimated that figure will reach 156 million by 2020 — accounting for 10 percent of the global travel market.
According to the GMTI, Indonesia ranks third — after Malaysia and the UAE — out of member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
“We aim to be in the No. 1 spot by 2019,” Hafizuddin Ahmad, a member of the halal tourism acceleration team at the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism, told Arab News.
The government has assigned 10 destinations across the country for halal tourism, with Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara province, West Sumatra and Aceh as the Top 3.
“We assigned those destinations in accordance with the local culture and their readiness to adapt to the concept,” said Ahmad, who is part of a Shariah supervisory body for Sofyan Hotels, a local hotel chain that follows Shariah principles in its management.
Lombok Island has already made a name for itself as a halal destination, picking up World’s Best Halal Destination and World’s Best Halal Honeymoon Destination at the World Halal Travel Awards in 2015.
But Taufan Rahmadi, who oversees projects to accelerate the growth of the island’s Mandalika area as a tourism destination, stressed that it is not just Muslim tourists that Lombok wishes to attract.
“We do not apply special zones for halal or conventional tourism. Halal tourism should not override existing, conventional tourism,” he told Arab News. “We don’t want to scare the conventional tourists away.
“Our branding is in line with the culture and our local custom, as our competitive edge, compared to Bali,” Rahmadi continued, referring to Lombok’s more famous and popular neighbor, while pointing out that Muslims account for 95 percent of Lombok’s population. He also claimed to have “often heard” complaints from tourists who could not find halal services in Bali.
Lombok saw an increase in visitors from Middle Eastern countries last year, up to 240,989 from 182,143 the previous year. But Arista Atmadjati — a tourism lecturer from Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta — said the island is hindered in its quest to attract further Muslim tourists by the fact there are still no direct flights from the GCC to Lombok.
“We are working on it. We are also working to have the runway in Lombok airport extended so that wide-body aircrafts can land,” Ahmadi said.
“Improved connectivity is a must so that Lombok can be a primary tourism destination instead of getting spillover from Bali where the tourists may have spent their money,” Atmadjati said.


Britain’s opposition Labour backs new election over Brexit impasse

Updated 59 min 47 sec ago
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Britain’s opposition Labour backs new election over Brexit impasse

  • Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has so far resisted calls to back a ‘People’s Vote,’ or new referendum on the decision to quit the EU
  • Brexit minister Dominic Raab again ruled out a new election, describing the suggestion as ‘for the birds’
LIVERPOOL: Britain’s opposition Labour Party prefers a new election to a second referendum on Brexit, its leader said on Sunday, heaping pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May whose plans for a deal with the EU have hit an impasse.
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has so far resisted calls to back a “People’s Vote,” or new referendum on the decision to quit the EU.
But the political landscape has changed since May was ambushed by the European Union on Thursday over her plans for Brexit — the biggest shift in British policy for more than four decades.
With talk of a new election swirling after May’s “Chequers” plan was all but shredded at an EU summit in Austria last week and chances of Britain exiting the bloc without a deal rising, Labour is under pressure to start setting the Brexit agenda.
Corbyn, a veteran euroskeptic who in 1975 voted “No” to Britain’s membership of the then-European Community, said that while he would listen to a debate about any possible second vote on Britain’s membership, he preferred a snap election if May failed to get a deal that Labour could support in parliament.
“Our preference would be for a general election and we can then negotiate our future relationship with Europe but let’s see what comes out of conference,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, saying Labour was ready to vote against any deal.
“We would vote it down if it didn’t meet our tests in order to send the government, if it is still in office, straight back to the negotiating table and if there is a general election and we are in office we would go straight to the negotiating table.”
Corbyn’s close ally, Len McCluskey, leader of Britain’s biggest trade union Unite, told the BBC any such second referendum “shouldn’t be on: ‘do we want to go back into the European Union?’” as that had been answered in the 2016 referendum.
Britain is to exit the EU in March. After weeks of both sides making positive noises about prospects of clinching a divorce deal and their future trading relationship, the mood turned sour on Thursday in Salzburg, Austria, when the bloc’s leaders, one by one, came out to criticize May’s Chequers plans.
A tacit agreement to try to offer her some support before she heads to what is going to be a difficult annual conference of her governing Conservative Party later this month was broken by some British diplomatic missteps.
May says she will hold her nerve in the talks, pressing the EU to come up with an alternative proposal to her Chequers plan, named after the prime minister’s country residence where a deal was hashed out with her top ministers in July.
But the impasse with the EU has prompted some to predict an early election, with local media reporting that May’s team has begun contingency planning for a snap vote in November to save both Brexit and her job.
Brexit minister Dominic Raab again ruled out a new election, describing the suggestion as “for the birds.” He said Britain would not “flit from plan to plan like some sort of diplomatic butterfly.”
“We are going to be resolute about this,” Raab added.
While saying she will stick to her guns, May might have little chance but to change tack after a party conference where the deep divisions over Europe that have riven her Conservatives for decades will be in plain sight.
A senior pro-EU Conservative lawmaker, Nicky Morgan, said May would have to give ground on trade and customs arrangements to overcome the biggest obstacle to a withdrawal accord — the prevention of a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and Ireland, a member of the EU.
“I am not sure there is life left in Chequers,” Morgan, chair of parliament’s Treasury Select Committee and a former cabinet minister under May’s predecessor, told Sky News.
“We want to see a deal. The question I think that has to be answered now by the government, by the EU leaders, is what room for movement is there, how do we move on from where we ended up last week?”