Seoul and South Korea as a whole is becoming one of the hottest travel destinations for Muslims, with the rising interest in Korean K-pop culture, tourist attractions and medical tourism as well as hallyu being one of the major influencers for Muslim female travellers. The government and private companies alike are moving to accommodate the rise in Muslim tourists, who have become an alternative solution or a new source of growth for South Korea’s tourism industry after it was hit hard by the departure of Chinese travellers. In addition, there are about 1.8 billion Muslims around the world make up about nearly a quarter of the earth’s population, the market also possesses great potential for the future.
Muslim tourists have emerged as one of the fastest-growing travel segments in recent years. According to data from the government-run Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), the number of Muslims visiting South Korea has steadily increased over the years, from 870,000 in 2017 and 970,000 in 2018. In the first half of this year, a total of 511,017 Muslim tourists visited the nation, which is a 9.8% rise compared with a year ago. If this trend continues, the number of Muslim tourists is expected to top 1 million in year 2019. Many of them are from majority-Muslim Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East.
Comfortable Travel with Friendly Services
One of the biggest challenges for muslim tourists while travelling in a non-Muslim country is the lack of information regarding Muslim-friendly restaurants. In South Korea, the basic infrastructure like prayer rooms and halal-certified restaurants that prepare food based on Islamic Sharia rules for Muslim tourists remains an obstacle, as there are still too few South Korean establishments that cater to such requirements despite the rise in demand. However, South Korea is working hard on how to set up and enhance the various facilities effectively and quickly, that can meet Muslim tourists’ specific needs. Hence, it’s so much easier for Muslims to travel to Korea now.
South Korea’s Muslim-friendly destinations had resulted in the mushrooming of halal restaurants across the country. Since 2016, a Muslim-friendly categorization system was introduced by KTO, which classified Muslim-friendly cuisine into four categories namely Halal certified (by Korea Muslim Federation); self-certified (all food is halal and certified by Muslim restaurant owners); Muslim-friendly (in places where some halal dishes are provided but alcohol is sold); and pork-free. A variety of delicious Korean dishes, tagged with different certificate reassurances, have been highlighted in order to help Muslim-tourists to explore and enjoy the richness and diversity of Korean culinary deights. As mid-2019, there are over 150 Muslim-friendly restaurants to cater to the high demand of Muslim tourists.
KTO also organises Muslim-friendly events and educational programmes for Koreans about halal food and the needs of Muslim visitors. From 1stSeptember to 31 October 2019, Muslim-friendly restaurants throughout South Korea will be offering special promotions such as discounts and free gifts to promote halal tourism in conjuction with the Halal Restaurant Week Korea. You can experience the great variety of Korea’s culinary delights that are consistent with halal standards by reference to Muslim-Friendly Restaurants in Korea Guidebook or Muslim-Friendly Korea Tourist Map.
On the other hand, there are 15 mosques in South Korea, including the Seoul Central Mosque, and more than 40 prayer rooms at popular tourist attractions like Nami Island, Lotte World and Coex Mall, Incheon International Airport in Seoul, Gimhae International Airport in Busan and the K-Style Hub tourist information centre in Seoul. And the number is expected to increase in the future. This friendly service would allow Muslim tourists to shop, eat or just enjoy the scenes without having to worry about where they will be able to conduct their prayers.
Bearing in mind that Islam is the dominant religion of Malaysia and Indonesia, Seoul Tourism Organization (STO) provides Muslim Tourist Reference Material and Seoul Tour Guide Book, listing a variety of Muslim-friendly restaurants, locations of prayer rooms and Seoul Central Masjid, service provided to Muslims at major hotels and details of Muslim-friendly medical institutions, as well as attraction places in Seoul together with useful public transportation information. STO is also taking steps to ensure Muslim travellers are well taken care of as the city starts to look more seriously at growing business event arrivals from Malaysia, Indonesia and other Muslim countries. The incentive group from Allianz Life Indonesia visited Seoul as part of an incentive trip in the early of the year, has shown a great promise in the growth potential of Muslim business travellers.
Wonderful Experience for Incentive Group
In the first half of year 2019, Seoul welcomed about 2,000-member incentive group from Allianz Life Indonesia, where the insurance group’s top achievers are from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippinies and Japan. More than 1,000 incentive participants as the first half of the incentive group visited Seoul from 24th March to 31stMarch 2019, and the second half of the group from 24thApril to 1stMay 2019.
The Allianz Life Indonesia incentive group chose Korea’s capital as their incentive destination as Seoul is a one-stop city for touring that has a unique culture, special traditional food and great shopping. The participants visited Seoul’s major attractions, including Gyeongbokgung Palace, National Folk Museum of Korea, Dongdaemun Design Plaza, N Seoul Tower, Insa-dong, and the capital city’s vicinity. The insurer also held a gala dinner at AW Convention Center, a popular venue for corporate events in central Seoul, where they watched a K-pop dance performance and part of the musical show CHEF. Over the trip, the group certainly dug deep into the local culture and food, with activities such as eating samgyetang (chicken ginseng soup) and wearing hanbok(Korean traditional clothing).
These cultural experiences were complemented with the city’s newest revamped PLUS SEOUL programs that launched in March 2019. As part of its effort to boost business events, Seoul Convention Bureau plastered corporate logo banners welcoming Allianz winners on more than 20 tour buses and provided participants with Seoul welcome kits (traditional Korean lucky pouches with metal chopsticks). This was a very special welcome from Seoul to the achievers, giving them a memorable mermory and unique experience in Seoul.
With over one million Muslim tourists visiting South Korea in coming years, the Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO) is taking steps to strengthen its halal food segment and promotional activities, including in Malaysia. They have taken measures to tap the ever-growing Muslim tourism market, including from Malaysia and Indonesia, which are among the highest number of Muslim tourists to the land known for its K-pop culture.In addition, STO is welcoming both Muslim business and leisure travellers to Seoul, a Muslim-friendly enviroment with warm hospitality and facilities.
More information about Seoul MICE Alliance which includes over 300 city-approved local event venues and service providers, along with the PLUS SEOUL, is available at www.miceseoul.com.