Thailand's first halal hotel hopes to boost Muslim arrivals

The four-star Al Meroz hotel in Bangkok aims to attract more Muslim visitors as industry data shows only 658,000 of nearly 30 million foreign tourists who came to Thailand in 2015 were from the Middle East.

Photo Source: Facebook/@almeroz.bangkok
Photo Source: Facebook/@almeroz.bangkok

The Al Meroz Hotel (pictured), which offers halal food and facilities, is the first such establishment in Bangkok, Thailand.

After it was launched in November, Thailand's first halal hotel is expected to help attract Muslim tourists and bolster the industry – one of the few bright spots in its economy.

Nearly 30 million foreign tourists came to Thailand last year, but only about 658,000 were from the Middle East, according to industry data.

The four-star Al Meroz hotel in Bangkok, which opened in November 2015, hopes to play its part in changing that, and to cash in.

"There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. It's a huge market," said the hotel's general manager, Sanya Saengboon. Halal resorts or hotels cater to those Muslims who seek to holiday in places where they can meet the requirements of their faith – eating halal food, refraining from alcohol or swimming in gender-separated areas.

"Just one per cent of that market is enough for us to thrive."

The Al Meroz, which boasts mosque-like architecture, has two prayer rooms and three halal dining halls.

Rooms cost from 4,000 baht all the way up to 50,000 baht ($116 to $1,445) a night, said Saengboon.

A guest at the hotel, Aamir Fazal, 28, who is a security officer from Australia, said access to a halal hotel was a comfort to observant Muslim travellers in Thailand where halal food can be hard to find.

"It's a really nice experience. It's the first halal hotel here and I find that amazing," said Fazal.

Eager to tap into a growing Muslim tourist market, Thailand launched a mobile application last year which helps tourists search for halal eateries and Muslim-friendly attractions.

A predominately Buddhist country, parts of Thailand's south, near the border with Muslim Malaysia, are majority Muslim areas. Muslims are the second largest religious group in Thailand, with a population of four million people, or six per cent of the total population, according to UN figures.

Many Malaysians pop over the border for short visits but a low-level separatist movement in the far south has dented business there.

Thailand saw a 10 per cent increase in arrivals from the Middle East in 2015 compared with 2014, data from the Department of Tourism showed.