The Role and Potential of Halal Tourism in Turkey

Fikret Tuna

Introduction: Clarifying the Basic Concepts

According to the World Tourism Organization, “Tourism comprises the activities of persons traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business, and other purposes” (UNWTO 2014). These “other purposes” may refer to visiting friends and relatives, education and professional training, health and medical care, shopping, and fulfilling religious needs. Tourism activities are categorized and subcategorized based on the main purpose for the travel: business tourism, medical tourism (or health tourism), shopping tourism, religious tourism, etc.

One of the main reasons for traveling is the desire to fulfill a religious or spiritual need. These kind of tourist activities are commonly known as “spiritual tourism,” “religious tourism,” or “belief tourism” (Sevinp and Azgfin 2012; Sharpley and Sundaram 2005; Tilson 2005; Toprak 2014). In many religions, taking a trip to a sacred place (pilgrimage) is considered a religious obligation of the believer, and in this case, the place that is being visited is important.

Such journeys undertaken for religious reasons are specific not only to Islam but also to Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions. In Islam, the holy journey to Kaaba in Mecca (Saudi Arabia) is known as Hadj and all Muslims have an obligation to make this trip at least once during their lifetime. During Hadj, pilgrims visit a number of important mosques and tombs, pray, and perform other religious ceremonies. For these reasons, travel by Muslims to sacred places entirely for religious or spiritual reasons was often labeled as “Islamic tourism.”

However, other sources are using the term “Islamic tourism” to designate all the tourist activities of Muslims which are entirely permitted under the Shari’a law (are halal). In this second meaning, the place that is being visited does not have to be a [1] [2]

holy place for Muslims and the purpose does not have to be religious. The important issue here is that the tourist activities must not include anything which is not allowed (haram) by Islam. Therefore, a travel to a seaside hotel for relaxation and entertainment without any religious purpose is also accepted as “Islamic tourism” if the activities included are not against the Islamic law (are “halal”). To distinguish this from tourism to sacred sites that are driven by religious purposes, this kind of tourism is sometimes labeled as “halal tourism” or “Islam-compliant tourism.”

  • [1] F. Tuna (H) Department of Geography, Fatih University, 34500 Istanbul, Turkeye-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it © Springer International Publishing AG 2016
  • [2] Egresi (ed.), Alternative Tourism in Turkey, GeoJournal Library 121,DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-47537-0_16
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