Last week saw a landmark vote in the Swiss region of Ticino, banning the wearing of full face veils in public. A type of dress that is customary in many Islamic communities.
While being a divisive topic in Swiss society, my professional concern relates to the implications this may have for the country’s tourism industry.
Moreover, this is not an issue solely affecting Switzerland; the vote follows a similar one in France and is part of a wider debate in European culture.
‘Halal holidays’ are fast becoming a popular type of vacation for an Islamic tourism sector that is spreading its wings like never before.
In oil rich nations of the Middle East, huge growth in banking and other areas of the economy have driven a surge in this type of travel.
What this means for many hotels around the world, is that in order to keep pace with change, significant efforts must be made to appeal to this burgeoning market.
This trend may also be seen in other geographical areas populated with large Islamic communities, including those within European countries such as France, Britain or Germany.
The concern for an evolving tourism industry is that it may not be possible to simultaneously cater to both the Islamic, and the Western world.
Much has been made of the differences between Islamic and European cultures in the press, but little is done to highlight certain shared values.
A middle ground is certainly achievable when you consider the impact the Middle East in particular has had on food culture. Many hotels have already taken the initiative to provide Middle Eastern menus in their restaurants, particularly in countries such as Australia with large tourism industries.
Though it is difficult to make a case for recent political developments having a positive impact on Islamic tourism in Europe, it is certainly not decisive.
From sweeping Alpine valleys, to historically rich cities such as Rome or Paris, there is of course plenty to appeal to a more mobile and affluent Islamic population.
What is not an attractive prospect when planning a holiday, is the idea that you may not be respected in the culture you wish to explore. Therefore a progressive and forward thinking tourism industry in Europe must look whole heartedly into how it can welcome the Islamic world.
In light of this, at My Premium Europe we are committed to help facilitate this interaction between the Islamic market, and the magnificent selection of hotels, chalets and villas we represent.
Based on market research and interviews we have conducted with industry insiders, we are running a project to incorporate Islamic service and facility information, in our hotel information pages.
As the crescent of Islam rises on the world of international tourism, we give you our top 10 hotel features that would please Islamic guests.
10) Qur’an available in hotel rooms: Many Islamic travellers may request a copy of the Qur’an in their hotel rooms. With the bible being a common sight in many European hotels, this is a simple and sure-fire way to send out a strong welcoming message to our Islamic guests.
9) Bathing suits for women: This offers Islamic women the option of covering up while enjoying the spa, pool or coastal delights your hotel may offer.
8) Arabic TV channels: Guests will be able to keep up to date with current affairs in the Arabic world just as many Western tourists do using the range of news channels available in many hotels.
7) Alcohol free options: Alcohol free mini bars and a choice of non-alcoholic bars are high up on the Islamic travellers list of hotel requirements.
6) Middle Eastern Menu: This is a highly effective way of tempting Islamic travellers to your hotel. Loved by many irrespective of religion or culture, this delicious type of cuisine attracts guests from every part of the world.
5) Spa Facilities: Does my hotel offer separate spa, beach or pool facilities for women? This is a question many Islamic guests will concern themselves with when planning their holidays.
4) Female housekeeping and room staff: Islamic cultures often require female housekeeping and room staff. Dress codes in Islamic cultures are relaxed behind closed doors and therefore hotels must be sensitive to the concerns many Islamic travellers have.
3) Female swimming/spa times: Offering female only spa or bathing times, will help ensure your Islamic guests feel as comfortable as possible in their surroundings.
2) Prayer facilities: The provision of mats as well as the times and the direction of prayer according the laws of Islam will certainly impress many committed Muslims.
1) Halal Food: This is our number one way of meeting the needs of Islamic travellers and is considered by many to be the top requirement. This is an extremely important part of Muslim culture and involves the preparation of food in accordance with Islamic law.
As a Muslim traveller your hotel must be conscious of your needs and requirements. At My Premium Europe we are sympathetic to this. So too are the fantastic range of luxury hotels in Rome that we represent.
Take a look at our top 5 Islamic friendly stays in the Italian capital: