Section of Plaza Beach Hotel at North Coast of Mombasa in Mombasa County. (Photo: Maarufu Mohamed/Standard)
The hospitality industry at the Coast has identified the growing Halal tourism as a key growth area.
Halal refers to certain demands on food handling in line with Islam.
Kenya Coast Tourist Association chairman Mohamed Hersi told Weekend Business that the rich Islamic influence at the Coast would make it a preferred destination for tourists from Halal areas.
He said the new market segment, combined with plans by Qatar Airways to start flights to Mombasa in 2018, is reason to get to the drawing board and prepare adequately for business.
“Halal tourism is one of the fastest-growing tourism segments, with statistics showing that leisure travel among Muslims is growing in leaps and bounds. In 2015, for example, there were 40,875 visitors from United Arab Emirates, up from 24,828 the previous year,’’ Mr Hersi said.
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He welcomed the flight arrangements by Qatar Airways, saying that the airline offers excellent connectivity all over the world and this will place Mombasa at an advantage.
“Qatar Airways’ decision is a clear stamp of approval that Mombasa is a destination of choice,’’ Mr Hersi, who is also chief executive of Heritage Group, said.
Tourism Regulatory Authority Director-General Lagat Kipkorir said the standards on Halal tourism have been developed in partnership with the Kenya Bureau of Standards.
“We have already developed a detailed plan that entails drafting, stakeholder involvement, quality assurance preparations and training prior to roll-out,” he said.
Mr Kipkorir said the proposed guidelines are necessary to ensure Halal catering, accommodation and conferencing services.
Kenya Safari Lodges and Hotels Chief Executive and general manager of Mombasa Beach Hotel, Victor Shitakha, welcomed the move by Qatar Airways.
‘’It is very exciting news. Next year will see our port city of Mombasa host the World Skal Congress on the beach, with more than 1,500 delegates from across the globe converging for a week of discussions. Qatar Airways coming could not have been at a better time,” he said.
Pride Inn Paradise Beach Resort, Convention Centre and Spa is the host venue for the congress.
Imtiaz Mirza, general manager at Pride Inn Paradise, also praised the plan by Qatar Airways.
At the three-star Plaza Beach Hotel, General Manager Dennis Gwaro was upbeat on Halal tourism.
“It is a great deal that will benefit hoteliers keen on embracing Halal tourism here. We welcome it with both hands,” he said.
He added that the hotel’s exterior design blends well with Arabic architecture and will please Muslim visitors with its offering including service, food and amenities complying with Islamic rules and customs.
“The hotel has a designated place to serve as prayer room and for other religious activities,” Mr Gwaro said.
Kenya Association of Hotel keepers and Caterers Coast branch Executive Officer Sam Ikwaye said long delays occasioned by red tape and protectionism hurt Kenya as a tourist destination.