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  1. #1
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    How Thailand is making itself more appealing to Muslim travellers

    INSIDE the cavernous dining hall of the five-star Al Meroz hotel in a Muslim suburb of Bangkok, an elderly man with a wispy beard recites verses of the Koran as a nervous-looking groom awaits the arrival of his bride.
    The young man bursts into a smile as his soon-to-be wife appears, clad in a brilliant white dress with matching headscarf.
    The ceremony is one of dozens of marriages held over the last few months at the Al Meroz — the city’s first entirely halal hotel.
    Thailand has long been a draw for the world’s sun-seekers and hedonists, drawn to its parties, red-light districts, cheap booze and tropical beaches.
    But it has also seen a huge influx of visitors from Muslim countries, part of a quiet but deliberate strategy by the Southeast Asian nation to diversify its visitor profile.
    “Considering there are 1.5 billion Muslims around the world, I think this is a very good market,” explains Sanya Saenboon, the general manager of the hotel, one of a growing number of businesses serving a boom in Islamic tourists.

    Wedding guests celebrate at the Al Meroz hotel in Bangkok, the city’s first halal hotel. Picture: AFP/Roberto SchmidtSource:AFP
    The hotel opened its doors last year, setting itself apart with its attention to all things Islamic.
    For a start there is no alcohol on sale, while the top floor swimming pool and gym has specific times for when men and women can use the facilities.
    Everything in the building has been ticked off against stringent checklist for practising Muslims, from bed linen washed in a particular way, to ensuring toiletries are free of alcohol or animal fat — making everyday goods “permissible” for the faithful.
    Sanya, who is Muslim, says such checks give visitors “peace of mind” so clients never have to ask themselves “can I eat this?”

    Despite a decade of political turbulence, Thailand has seen an explosion in tourist arrivals, from 13.8 million annual visitors in 2006 to a record 32.5 million last year.
    Western arrivals have largely remained a constant. The biggest increase in arrivals comes from China, skyrocketing from just 949,000 arrivals 10 years ago to 8.7 million visitors in 2016.
    But Muslim countries are also sending their citizens.

    Halal-certified food is served at Al Meroz hotel in Bangkok. Picture: AFP/Roberto SchmidtSource:AFP
    An AFP analysis of government figures shows visitors from key majority Muslim nations in the Middle East and Asia have risen from 2.63 million in 2006 to 6.03 million last year.
    “Thailand was ahead of the curve,” says Fazal Baharden, founder of the Singapore-based Crescent Rating, which rates which countries are most welcoming to Muslim travellers.
    Thailand routinely places in the top two for non-Muslim majority nations alongside Singapore in Crescent Ratings’ annual survey of halal destinations.
    “They’ve really recognised the Muslim consumer market is worth tapping into,” he explains, adding medical tourism, shopping and high quality hotels are the primary draws.
    Baharden says the Islamic travel market is one of the world’s fastest growing thanks the growth of cheap flights and booming Muslim middle classes.

    Thailand is looking to take advantage of the lucrative Islamic travel market. Picture: iStockSource:Supplied
    He estimates the number of Muslim travellers has surged from around 25 million a year in 2000 to 117 million in 2015.
    But it is not just at home that Thailand has gone halal.

    From chicken and seafood to rice and canned fruit, the country has long been one of the world’s great food exporters.
    Now a growing numbers of food companies are switching to halal to widen their customer base.
    Against a backdrop of humming machines churning out butter, Lalana Thiranusornkij, a Buddhist, explains how her family turned their three factories — under the KCG Corporation banner — halal to access markets in Indonesia, Malaysia and in the Gulf.
    But going halal sometimes required some clever workarounds, such as how to avoid animal based gelatine to make jelly.
    “In the past we used gelatine from pork but ... we changed our gelatine from the pork source to be from a seaweed source,” she said.
    Thailand’s junta has set the goal of turning the country into one of the world’s top five halal exporting nations by 2020.

    Workers package butter at a halal dairy and biscuit factory in Bangkok. Picture: AFP/Lillian SuwanrumphaSource:AFP
    Some outsiders might be surprised to see an overwhelmingly Buddhist nation embrace halal.
    But Dr Winai Dahlan, founder of the Halal Science Centre at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, says Thailand was well placed to make the change.
    Five per cent of its population is Muslim and — outside of the insurgency plagued southern border region — is well-integrated within the Buddhist majority.
    It was local Thai Muslims who first began asking for the country’s halal testing centre, a business that scours products for any banned substances and has since boomed.
    “Fifteen years ago there was only 500 food plants that had halal certification. Now it’s 6000,” Winai told AFP as female lab technicians in headscarves tested food products for traces of pork DNA.
    Over the same period the number of halal certified products made in Thailand has gone from 10,000 to 160,000, he added.
    It’s paid off. The government estimates the halal food industry is already worth $6 billion a year.
    As Thailand has quickly learned, there’s gold at the end of the halal rainbow.

    Muslim travellers in Thailand benefiting from halal food, gender-segregated hotels

  2. #2
    Thailand Expat
    wasabi's Avatar
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    Al Meroz Hotel, would be great to stay there, no English mongers are going to be seen dead in there.
    Farang free zone.

  3. #3
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    How stupid are they?

  4. #4
    Thailand Expat VocalNeal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chittychangchang
    Thailand has long been a draw for the world’s sun-seekers and hedonists, drawn to its parties, red-light districts, cheap booze and tropical beaches.
    But it has also seen a huge influx of visitors from Muslim countries,
    "Hallal, Hallal! Who's your lady friend? Who's the little girlie by your side?"

  5. #5
    Days Work Done! Norton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chittychangchang
    the number of Muslim travellers has surged from around 25 million a year in 2000 to 117 million in 2015
    Quote Originally Posted by Chittychangchang
    Thailand is making itself more appealing to Muslim travellers
    As it should do given the large segment of the tourism market muslims represent. Makes sense to me.

  6. #6
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    Thais will lower themselves to any standard to make money.

  7. #7
    Member John Lennon's Avatar
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    More Muslims & more KKK brings a happy society.

  8. #8
    Not a Mod.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wasabi View Post
    Al Meroz Hotel, would be great to stay there, no English mongers are going to be seen dead in there.
    Farang free zone.
    If it's anything like hotels in Malaysia during Ramadan, you'll be kept awake by the screams of unsupervised children running around the corridors in the early hours of the morning.

  9. #9
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    Left unsupervised because the parents are out drinking and mongering. ^

  10. #10
    disturbance in the Turnip baldrick's Avatar
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    betty is going to be pissed off

    all the good looking goats will be taken

  11. #11
    Thailand Expat harrybarracuda's Avatar
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    There are anywhere between 6-12 million muslims in Thailand depending who you ask, and they aren't all southern terrorists.

    How fucking hard is it to accomodate muslim visitors FFS?

  12. #12
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    Farang Ky Ay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norton View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Chittychangchang
    the number of Muslim travellers has surged from around 25 million a year in 2000 to 117 million in 2015
    Quote Originally Posted by Chittychangchang
    Thailand is making itself more appealing to Muslim travellers
    As it should do given the large segment of the tourism market muslims represent. Makes sense to me.
    Agree, they already cater Chinese, Russians and other westerners specific needs, so there are few reasons if any not to adress this market segment...

    Will I go to thesess Muslim orientated places? Don't think so, but I think the same with Chinese or Russian orientated places ...

  13. #13
    Being chased by sloths DJ Pat's Avatar
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    How Thailand is making itself more appealing to Muslim travellers


  14. #14
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    Damn Foreigners....

  15. #15
    Thailand Expat tomcat's Avatar
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    ...exactly what various strains of Muslims don't need when they travel: more of the same...

    ...their cultural bubbles don't need reinforcement, but exposure to a reality that tells them "you're not special despite what your government propaganda drills into you." Other cultures don't need to mollycoddle Muslims, but welcome them to a world of new experiences...many of which may contradict the lifestyles they're accustomed to...after all, if Brits can ride camels in Cairo, Kuwaitis can enjoy grilled pork in Bangkok...
    Majestically enthroned amid the vulgar herd

  16. #16
    Thailand Expat harrybarracuda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomcat View Post
    ...exactly what various strains of Muslims don't need when they travel: more of the same...

    ...their cultural bubbles don't need reinforcement, but exposure to a reality that tells them "you're not special despite what your government propaganda drills into you." Other cultures don't need to mollycoddle Muslims, but welcome them to a world of new experiences...many of which may contradict the lifestyles they're accustomed to...after all, if Brits can ride camels in Cairo, Kuwaitis can enjoy grilled pork in Bangkok...
    Many of the local lads I work with who were educated in Blighty seriously miss pork pie and full English.

  17. #17
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    Scottish Gary's Avatar
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    Pattaya is full of Muslims. Usually the young monger types from the gulf states as opposed to the hard line Saudi jihadists.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norton
    As it should do given the large segment of the tourism market muslims represent. Makes sense to me.
    Of course. Silly not to.

    Quote Originally Posted by tomcat
    their cultural bubbles don't need reinforcement, but exposure to a reality that tells them "you're not special despite what your government propaganda drills into you." Other cultures don't need to mollycoddle Muslims, but welcome them to a world of new experiences...many of which may contradict the lifestyles they're accustomed to...after all, if Brits can ride camels in Cairo, Kuwaitis can enjoy grilled pork in Bangkok
    So you disagree with the business model of catering to speciality requirements/markets? No gay bars, no gay resorts, no pink dollar anythings, no tour guides trained in particular cultural peculiarities, no kosher shops, no packages designed for the aged, no Christmas dinners in hotels and pubs on December 25th,....?
    Pink dollar, grey dollar, and now halal dollar.

  19. #19
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    I have benefited culturally from seeing these people walking around in the heat and humidity of Bangkok; the man in a short sleeve shirt and short pants, and the wife in a full burka, including the beak under the veil that goes over their nose and mouth. Something you never see in America, but validates the propaganda heard there.

  20. #20
    Thailand Expat tomcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam
    So you disagree with the business model of catering to speciality requirements/markets? No gay bars, no gay resorts, no pink dollar anythings
    ...gay bars and resorts were necessary when "straight" places wouldn't tolerate a gay presence...not quite the same as having a "halal" holiday...that has changed (in some areas) as the pink dollar appears to be just as valuable as any other color...
    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam
    no kosher shops
    ...not on holiday...you eat what's on offer or vacation in Israel...
    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam
    no packages designed for the aged,
    ...as noted above: not quite the same thing...you're comparing a cultural aspect with a possible physical requirement: old folks may be slower, a bit more infirm and need more light to study the fake gemstones...

  21. #21
    Pedantic bastard
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    ^

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomcat View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam
    So you disagree with the business model of catering to speciality requirements/markets? No gay bars, no gay resorts, no pink dollar anythings
    ...gay bars and resorts were necessary when "straight" places wouldn't tolerate a gay presence...not quite the same as having a "halal" holiday...that has changed (in some areas) as the pink dollar appears to be just as valuable as any other color...
    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam
    no kosher shops
    ...not on holiday...you eat what's on offer or vacation in Israel...
    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam
    no packages designed for the aged,
    ...as noted above: not quite the same thing...you're comparing a cultural aspect with a possible physical requirement: old folks may be slower, a bit more infirm and need more light to study the fake gemstones...
    So Jews should eat pork when in Thailand (just as you said Muslims should)?

    Gays were discriminated against, and I daresay Muslims have been too (especially in the good old Yoo Ess of Aye). I daresay it would be out and out discrimination to insist Muslims eat pork.

    Why can't you accept that religious requirements of any religion should be tolerated at the very least? Kosher, vegetarian, whatever cultural/religious/belief system people have, that's their right.
    Just because you ride a camel in Kuwait and eat falafels in Jerusalem does not mean the whole world has to "go native" when abroad. I eat what the locals eat when abroad, but I don't expect everybody to enjoy that just because I do.
    But that's beside the point. The point is the market calls for specialist holidays, so why not provide them?

  23. #23
    Thailand Expat
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    ^ This could be extended to Farang food served to westerners in Thailand.

    Thai food for every one (not the washed up version served to tourists) if you can't stand it, spend your holiday time in western world...


  24. #24
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    The plus side for Thai tourism is that this very lucrative industry and related selected policies is not decided or called upon by TD members, where an imagined and invented political and social hatred/bigotry/paranoia would certainly do it in...

  25. #25
    Thailand Expat tomcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam
    So Jews should eat pork when in Thailand (just as you said Muslims should)?
    of course not, there are other Thai food items available...what Jews shouldn't do, imo, is expect all menu items to be kosher...
    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam
    I daresay it would be out and out discrimination to insist Muslims eat pork.
    Of course: but Muslims should be aware that non-halal meat will be served in restaurants that aren't Muslim-owned...only those Muslims traveling in their cultural bubbles will be shocked and dismayed at the revelation...
    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam
    Why can't you accept that religious requirements of any religion should be tolerated at the very least? Kosher, vegetarian, whatever cultural/religious/belief system people have, that's their right.
    My objection is not particular religious requirements...it's the notion that cultural bubbles have to be established to suit certain travelers...one point of traveling is to broaden horizons; alien cuisine is a good way to do that...
    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam
    The point is the market calls for specialist holidays, so why not provide them?
    Indeed, why not? Except that they defeat the purpose of travel (see above)...many disdain Brits for insisting on their breakfasts when abroad; others go after Americans for seeking out bland fast food establishments...such timidity is fine...but why travel then if you're limited only to those places that cater to one's particular sub-group: better to stay at home, be safe, watch NatGeo and shudder...

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