Islamic Lifestyle 

INTERVIEW-Halal tourism development and trends in Indonesia: Riyanto Sofyan

| 27 December, 2017 | Interview
INTERVIEW-Halal tourism development and trends in Indonesia: Riyanto Sofyan
Photo: LOMBOK, INDONESIA - JULY 22, 2016: Groups of tourists camping along the lake at Rinjani Volcano in Lombok, Indonesia. / Jamoo /

(Inserts correction that this interview is paid content)

This article is paid for and produced by Indonesia's Team for Accelerated Development of Halal Tourism as part of the State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2017. The report can be downloaded from HERE.

As a head of Halal Tourism Development in Indonesia, how do you see the broad trends in the Halal tourism industry? And how does this shape the Indonesian Halal tourism industry?

In addition to the increased interest in Halal tourism, the broad trends we are observing are: an increase in spending power of middle income families around the world, allowing more Muslims to travel for leisure - beyond hajj and umrah trips. Furthermore, beyond basic sight-seeing and shopping packages, Muslim travelers now expect their needs to be met while partaking in trips ranging from adventure travel to beach holidays as well as in immersive experiences.

Non-Muslim countries, such as Thailand, Japan and Korea are starting to target the Muslim travel segment and are developing products tailored to the needs of Muslim travelers. Globally there are travel companies leading the way in Halal tourism by offering unique experiences to Muslim travelers. Domestically, Indonesians are traveling more to explore their country and expect their faith based needs to be met.

These trends have influenced the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and encouraged it to make Halal tourism a core area of focus.

What is the role of the Halal Tourism Acceleration and Development Team within the Ministry of Tourism? What are the major developments that the department provides to improve Indonesia’s ranking?

The Halal Tourism Acceleration and Development Team was appointed by the Minister of Tourism as a dedicated team to focus on the development and promotion of Halal tourism in Indonesia. Although Indonesia already had all the ingredients for Halal tourism, as we say it’s in our DNA, it wasn’t focused on promoting the destination as a Halal or family-friendly destination.

The strategy of the Halal Tourism Acceleration and Development Team focuses on four key areas:

1. Policy/Regulation Development: Lobbying top government officials to get their support and commitment on Halal Tourism, including approving related policies, implementing regulations and allocating the budget required, as well as stimulating the development of Halal tourism at the Central Government and Provincial Government

2. Supporting Marketing and Selling Activities: Developing and launching integrated marketing campaigns targeting Indonesia’s core target markets for Halal travel based on our marketing strategy. First we match countries of origin and time of travel with Indonesia’s Halal destinations that most suitable to the travel preferences of each market. We then conduct targeted advertising and selling campaigns. Our promotional efforts including using paid advertising, content marketing, social media, and influencers.

3. Destination development: Improve industry and destination competitivenes offerings through quick win programs with clear KPIs and global benchmarking. This involves the improvement of existing attractions, developing new attractions, improving accessibility to attractions, as well as enhancing the amenities provided.

4. Capacity building: Increasing the awareness of industry players and community stakeholders on the importance of the Halal Travel market and how to address it. Providing capacity building to the tourism workforce, industry players and communities, as well as developing Halal Certification.

The Halal tourism marketplace is facing increasing competition and challenges. As part of the tourism regulatory authority, are there any operational or regulatory challenges faced by the industry? What is the role of the ministry in minimizing the extent of challenges to protect the market?

Some of the challenges we face in the Halal tourism space are limited adoption of Halal certification on behalf of industry players and underpromotion of Indonesia as a Halal-friendly and family-friendly destination.

One of the ways that The Halal Tourism Acceleration and Development Team is working on building the awareness and commitment of the industry is through educational workshops. We recently held an interactive workshop with Indonesian inbound travel agencies, during which we had them work in groups to develop Halal tourism packages, including detailed itineraries tailored to different target segments. We plan to implement some of these new packages once they are ready to be marketed. The new packages include a Halal Cruise to Aceh, a Qurbani Tour in Lombok, and a trip to The First Halal Beach in Indonesia, which is located in Banyuwangi, East Java.

This year we will conduct a series of Halal tourism business gatherings, the first of which will be for top tourism industry leaders and will focus on helping them develop a Halal tourism strategy and action plan. This will be followed by a wider gathering of industry players that will guide them on targeting the Muslim market, during which we will share actionable programs for different tourism businesses including travel agencies, hotels, restaurants and spas.

To motivate destinations within Indonesia to focus on Halal tourism, we launched a series of awards, which succeeded in creating a healthy competition among destinations. These internal competitions propelled Indonesia to win a series of awards including the World’s Best Halal Tourism Destination and the World’s Best Halal Honeymoon destination for Lombok, the World’s Best Halal Destination for West Sumatera, the World’s Best Halal Culinary Destination for Padang, West Sumatera, and the World’s Best Halal Cultural Destination for Aceh.

In terms of regulation we have established a Halal standard for the hospitality and food and beverage sectors, and we regularly hold informational seminars and technical workshops to educate industry players on the importance of certification and how to become certified.

Being a Muslim country where Halal food and Muslim-friendly facilities such as masallahs and ablution facilities are widely available, it is sometimes difficult to convince the industry of the importance of becoming Halal certified. However, we repeatedly communicate that Muslim tourists from certain destinations require the assurance of Halal certification and that becoming certified makes it easier to sell their products and services.

What are Indonesia’s top Halal destinations and what is unique about each of them?

Our top Halal destinations are:

1. Lombok – renowned as a global Halal honeymoon destination

2. West Sumatra – known for its exquisite Halal cuisine and natural attractions

3. Aceh - worldly renowned as a global Halal Cultural Destination

4. Jakarta – the capital city of Indonesia and the hub for leisure, especially shopping and visiting the beautiful Thousand Islands.

5. West Java - best known of its variety of natural attractions that are Muslim  – Friendly and the go-to destination for adventure tourism.

We are also looking into more targeted pairing of source markets with destinations that are not currently on the top for those markets but which have a great deal of potential because of the affinity of what those destinations have to offer with the target market preferences.

For example, tourists from the Middle East are interested in beach and nature tourism, in addition to health and wellness tourism, which includes spas, and shopping tourism - all of which Indonesia has to offer. Therefore, the top Muslim-friendly destinations that we promote to tourists from the Middle East are Lombok, West Sumatra, Jakarta, and West Java.

On the other hand, visitors from Asia Pacific prefer to go sight seeing, shopping, visit Islamic Heritage sites, and enjoy nature and scenery. Based on their preferences, we promote Aceh, Jakarta, West Java, West Sumatera, West Nusa Tenggara.

Finally, tourists from Europe prefer sight-seeing, shopping, nature, exploring traces of Islam, and going on adventures when they travel. Based on European tourists preferences, we promote Aceh, West Sumatera,  and West Nusa Tenggara to European tourists.

What actions is Indonesia taking to attract investments in Halal tourism industry? What are the key countries that Indonesia is looking forward to collaborate with?

The Government and The Ministry of Tourism has been working on numerous fronts to improve the Halal tourism investment climate. These include participating in tourism investment conferences as well as conducting trade and investment missions in key countries to attract investors to Indonesia and to communicate the tourism investment opportunities available.

In terms of the key countries to collaborate with for the investment in the Halal tourism sector, we are looking to collaborate with the Arabian Gulf countries, Russia, United Kingdom, India, and China.

We recently held meetings with investors from Qatar focusing on projects in Mandalika in Central Lombok, in which one of the projects is building a Halal resort. We are also currently in talks with an investor from China in developing Halal Tourism Complex in Mandalika. Indonesia has gained the attention of investors from Saudi Arabia, especially with the recent visit of His Highness King Salman.

What programs do you plan implementing in 2018 to promote tourism in Indonesia?

Indonesia aims to attract 3.8 million Muslim visitors in 2018, and five million by 2019, which will contribute towards its target of 20 million international visitors by 2019.

Next year we will hold an Indonesia Halal Tourism Expo to which we will invite buyers from our target markets. Our team will embark on a series of sales missions to top targeted cities such as Jeddah, London, Mumbai, Singapore and Sydney. This is from an industry level, from a traveler perspective, we are looking into launching a Muslim Lifestyle Festival that involves food, fashion, shopping, and entertainment.


Report: State of the Global Islamic Economy 2017/18

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Riyanto Sofyan has 36 years of experience in the hospitality and tourism business. Riyanto Sofyan conceived the Halal aspect in hospitality and tourism in 1992, and implemented this concept in his chain of hotels, while ensuring inclusiveness of all guests. This resulted in increased revenue and growth.

In 2012, Riyanto was appointed as Strategic Partner to The Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia to develop and enhance Halal tourism in Indonesia. In 2016, the Ministry appointed him to head the Team for Accelerated Development of Halal Tourism.

Riyanto also holds active positions in several industry organizations including the Chairman of Halal Tourism Indonesia Association (HTIA/PPHI), Vice Chairman of Indonesia Hotel and Restaurant Association (IHRA/PHRI), Chairman of Sharia Economic Community (SEC/MES), Vice Chairman of Halal Tourism Indonesia, Chamber of Tourism Industry of Indonesia (CTII/GIPI), and Chairman of Indonesia Muslim Entrepreneur Associations (IMEA/ISMI).

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