By Gaya Traveller on February 18, 2020
We were honoured to receive an invitation from Taipei City Government to experience the city’s Muslim-friendly hospitality for five days and four nights. Since our previous trips to Taiwan were wonderful, we were definitely looking forward to another interesting experience. Taiwan never ceases to amaze us, and we were very impressed of how proactive the Taiwanese government and tourism industry players are regarding halal tourism.
Taipei, the modern capital city of Taiwan, welcomed 11.1 million visitors in 2018. It is the political, financial, economic and cultural heart of Taiwan. Taipei has found a good balance between modern development and heritage preservation, making Taipei an appealing travel destination.
The main agenda of our recent trip to Taipei was to witness the Halal / Muslim-Friendly Certification Award Ceremony to Taipei City tourism industry players comprising the providers of accommodations and tourist attractions. During the ceremony 28 hotels, totaling 1,403 rooms, and six attractions received the coveted Muslim-Friendly Status certification by the Chinese Muslim Association (CMA).
To Malaysians – Muslims or otherwise – Taiwan is one of the closest four-season destinations they could head to for a quick getaway, which is only a four-hour-and-a-half flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). Both Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia fly directly to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
Another big plus is that Malaysians do not require visa to enter Taiwan. As such, an impromptu trip could easily turn into reality!
Taiwan is safe for Muslim ladies. One of our guides during this trip was Atikah, a Malay girl wearing hijab (head covering). She is a student at one of the universities in Taipei. We asked if she had experienced any unpleasantness from the locals, she was quick to say ‘No’. Atikah mentioned that she found the Taiwanese remarkably understanding and open to different religious practices. We testify to this fact because we noticed that we didn’t receive any strong glare but only smiles from the locals.
Mandarin speakers are at an advantage since Mandarin the commonly spoken language in Taiwan. Majority of Taiwanese are not conversant in English, but don’t let this stop you from coming to Taiwan. Through our experience, the Taiwanese are good natured, friendly, helpful and polite. The staff at the hotels, restaurants and shops generally would be able to understand and speak English. Google Translate application comes in handy whenever travellers need to read labels and signages.
Malaysians being Malaysians, food is always a strong pull factor. Taiwan produces high quality fruits and vegetables. Being avid edible gardeners ourselves, we always look forward to find out which fruits are currently in season. Taiwan is home to several farm stays, and some are certified Muslim-friendly.
Besides fresh produce, Taiwanese street food is an attraction in its own right. Taipei has many night markets, and they are open every night. Be sure to visit at least one when you are in Taipei and prepared to be wowed by the myriad of street foods on sale! In case you did not know, Taiwan is the birth country of boba, or bubble tea. Sweet drinks like bubble tea, flavoured milk, bottled tea and coffee (all available at the convenience stores) are aplenty and cheap! We were totally spoilt for choice, as you would find yourselves too.
Taipei is clean. Like Japan, we hardly see trash cans at public places, yet there is no rubbish strewn on the ground. We see many similarities between the Taiwanese and the Japanese. It is not surprising since Taiwan was once under Japanese rule for 50 years.
It is easy to get around Taipei due the city’s excellent transportation system. Like most modern cities, Taipei has reliable public transportation network; get yourself a map of the Metro (Mass Rapid Transit) and city bus routes, and you will be well on your way to explore the city on your own.
According to CrescentRating, the world’s leading authority of halal-friendly travel, the Muslim travel market is one of the fastest growing tourism sectors in the world. However, despite its huge potential, the market remains relatively untapped. By 2026, the Halal travel sector’s contribution to the global economy is expected to be US$300 billion. By that time, Muslim visitors globally are forecasted to grow to 230 million visitors, representing over 10% of tourists worldwide.
Realising this, the Taiwan Government officials have been taking proactive measures to lure Muslim travellers to their wonderful country. As a result, there has been a steady increase of Muslim-friendly facilities all over the country, especially in Taipei.
Taipei Deputy Mayor Tsai Ping-Kun mentioned that Taipei City Government is seriously wooing Muslim travellers, especially the Millennials, by providing more of these three key facilities: halal food; availability of praying rooms; and toilets with bidets or spray hose for washing. He cited that “freedom, diversity and openness” are the most attractive features of Taipei, and pledged that the city intends to deliver detailed and considerate service so that Taipei can be enjoyed by all.
Taiwan ranked third on the Mastercard-CresentRating’s 2019 Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) Non-OIC destinations list, an excellent achievement compared to the year before, which was fifth. The GMTI tracks the health and growth of Muslim-friendly travel destinations in four strategic areas: access, communications, environment and services. The GMTI is now the leading study providing insights and data to help countries, the travel industry and investors gauge the development of travel sectors while benchmarking a country’s progress when catering to Muslim travellers.
CresentRating’s CEO Fazal Bahardeen, who was also present at the certification ceremony, lauded Taiwan’s efforts towards Muslim-friendly tourism. He even pledged to work closely with the Chinese Muslim Association to promote Taiwan’s Muslim-friendly hotels and attractions.
On top of the 28 recently certified hotels, there are 18 more hotels that were certified earlier. Muslim-friendly rooms in these hotels are equipped with prayer mat, Qibla direction, washlets in the bathroom, and no alcohol or non-halal food. Halal breakfast options are available too. Food will be prepared in a designated Halal kitchen and served in specific tablewares. We were very impressed with what we had experienced throughout this trip. We have never encountered such facilities in a non-muslim country prior to Taiwan. As a regular traveller, we find this very astounding.
These hospitality practitioners received professional education and training to equip themselves better in welcoming Muslim guests. These 28 hotels are spread across eight districts, including Beitou, Wanhua, and Zhongzheng in Taipei City. The types of accommodations range from business hotels and hot springs to youth hostels, offering diverse choices to Muslims travellers.
The certified 28 hotels are:
Taiwan is all set to woo Muslim visitors through its hundreds of hotels and restaurants that are already certified as halal and Muslim-friendly by the Chinese Muslim Association. According to Halal Specialist Majid Tsai, Taiwan is home to approximately 250,000 Indonesians and 20,000 Malaysians. This further encourages business owners to seriously consider halal certification. In fact, it was the big hotels that first enquired about the possibility of getting halal certification from the Chinese Muslim Association after obtaining a copy of the Halal Restaurants in Taiwan Directory.
CMA was then the highest Muslim authority in China. It represents the Taiwan Muslim community domestically and internationally since 1958, responsible for promoting religious affairs, maintaining Islamic lifestyle and educating Muslim youths. All registered Muslim citizens of the Republic of China are its individual members, and the six mosques are its group member.
In the hospitality industry, CMA is responsible for:
Halal Certification Categories by Chinese Muslim Association
Our five-day trip brought us to experience Taiwan’s halal and Muslim-friendly hospitality. We stayed at four Muslim Friendly Tourism (MFT) certified accommodations, visited one out of the six mosques in the country (Taipei Grand Mosque), dined at halal / Muslim-friendly certified eateries for every meal, and most importantly, we had fun! We shall elaborate more on Taipei’s must-visit attractions in the next issue. Stay tuned!
GayaTraveller team would like to thank the Taipei City Government and Taiwan Learning Trip Ltd (Ms. Tammy) for making the team’s trip to Taiwan possible and smooth-sailing.
This article is featured on Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 14.4. Read other contents HERE.