Exclusive, Athin General Chairman Cheriatna Reveals Comparison of Halal and Non-Halal Tourism

After the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry is booming again. According to the General Chairman of the Indonesian Halal Travel Association (Athin), Cheriatna, halal tourism has also increased. Now, halal tourism has become a trend in the world of tourism. However, what is the difference between halal tourism and non-halal tourism? And what are the advantages of halal tourism compared to conventional tourism?


Based on data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) in December 2023, visits by foreign tourists to Indonesia reached 1.14 million. This number increased by 22.91% compared to the previous month (month-to-month) and increased by 20.17% compared to the same month in the previous year (year-on-year). Foreign tourists visiting Indonesia in December 2023 were dominated by tourists from Malaysia (18.45%), Singapore (16.41%), and Australia (11.87%).

Cumulatively, foreign tourist visits from January to December 2023 increased by 98.30% compared to the same period in 2022. The highest increase was recorded at Ngurah Rai and Soekarno-Hatta airports, respectively experiencing an increase of 143.64% and 108.95%. %. "The COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed the tourism industry. Thank God, it has now recovered," said Cheriatna.

Meanwhile, the number of domestic tourists during 2023 will reach 7.52 million trips. This number experienced a drastic increase of 112.26% compared to the previous year which only reached 3.54 million trips. Malaysia will become the largest destination country for foreign tourists in 2023, with 27.98% of the total number of foreign tourists.

In the halal tourism industry, Indonesia has also achieved a proud achievement, namely winning the title of Top Muslim-Friendly Destination of the Year 2023 in the Mastercard Crescent Rating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2023 in Singapore. This award was received by the Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Sandiaga Uno, in June 2023.

As a halal tourism entrepreneur, according to Cheriatna, Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, making it a very potential halal tourism market. It is not surprising that tourism boards from non-Muslim countries are aggressively marketing their halal tourist destinations. "Non-Muslim countries that have tourist destinations are competing to attract potential tourists from Indonesia to visit. Every tourist visit means earning foreign exchange," he said to Edy Suherli, Bambang Eros, and Irfan Medianto when visiting the VOI office in Jakarta recently. This is the full excerpt.

Currently, said Ketum Athin Cheriatna, halal tourism has become a world trend. (Photo Bambang Eros, DI Raga Granada VOI)

What is halal tourism and how is it different from tourism in general?

Actually, halal tourism is similar to conventional tourism. What makes it different is the additional worship facilities needed by Muslims and a halal food menu during the trip. This addition is the main difference between halal tourism and non-halal tourism. So, tourist destinations, tourist attractions and attractions are all the same. This increases tourists' comfort in traveling.

Is there an institution that provides recommendations about halal areas or tourism?

Until now, there is no institution that provides recommendations on whether an area is included in the halal or non-halal tourism category. At the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, there is an Adhoc institution tasked with helping accelerate halal tourism. Before Pak Sandiaga's era, this Ad Hoc institution already existed.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, has tourism, especially halal tourism, recovered?

Almost all sectors were paralyzed during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the tourism sector which was badly affected. Thank God, now he is starting to recover.

Has halal tourism become a necessity for Muslims?

Halal tourism has become a trend in the world because Muslims realize the importance of traveling, not only for vacation and to relieve fatigue from daily routines, but also as a religious recommendation. In surah Al-Mulk;15, Allah reminds humanity to explore the earth and enjoy halal sustenance.

Are all tourist destinations around the world halal tourist destinations?

In general, this understanding is correct, but there are differences in the facilities or additional features needed for worship and in the provision of food/drinks which must be halal and maintained halal.

Is every tourist destination in various countries, especially in non-Muslim countries, able to provide places of worship and halal food?

Indonesia has a large Muslim population, making it a very potential market. Non-Muslim countries that have tourist destinations compete to attract tourists from Indonesia by providing facilities such as mosques, halal restaurants, and others. They also promote via social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Google.


In order for more tourists to come to Indonesia, Athin Chairman, Cheriatna, emphasized that tourism promotion activities must be more aggressive. (Photo Bambang Eros, DI Raga Granada VOI)

Where are many tourists from Indonesia interested in halal tourism?

One of them is Spain, which was once controlled by the Umayyad Dynasty. Their remains still exist today in Cordova, Seville and other cities in the country of the Matadors. How Islam entered Europe, was successful, then was expelled from Europe. Central European, Eastern European and Southern European countries such as Austria, Greece, Albania, Czechia and Slovakia also have Islamic heritage, although not much. There are mosques that turn into churches and vice versa. This is also in demand among our tourists. History like this can be a lesson for Muslims about the importance of unity.

How many Middle Eastern tourists come to Indonesia?

When compared with Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, the number of tourists from the Middle East who come to Indonesia is still far less. More are going to these countries. This is homework for all of us so that tourists from Middle Eastern countries want to visit Indonesia. The total number of tourists coming to these countries is more than 10 million, even Malaysia has more than 20 million and Thailand more than 30 million. Even though we have more wealth and diversity, in reality less is coming.

How did it happen?

I see that the current minister's performance is good, but there is still room for improvement. Hopefully his successor can continue what has been done and increase the number of foreign tourist visits to Indonesia. In my opinion, promotion should be more aggressive. What I know is that tourism boards from various countries are very aggressive in their promotions, they visit travel agents to offer their tour packages. My travel agent was also approached by them.

What other suggestions do you have for improving our tourism sector?

Promotion alone is not enough, the next step is improving infrastructure. Roads to tourist locations must be repaired, facilities at tourist attractions must also be clean. Accommodation such as hotels and guesthouses must also be good and clean. Communities in tourist areas must also be ready to receive tourists. Bali is ready, but other areas are not yet. Other regions have a lot to learn from the Balinese people.

What about Indonesian tourism branding?

Every country has a brand to promote its tourism. The current Indonesian tourism brand, "Wonderful Indonesia," can be evaluated whether it is still strong or needs to be updated. Of course, to find these answers, reliable research must be carried out.

How is Indonesian tourists aware of halal tourism?

They pay great attention to food issues. The most frequently asked question is whether the food is halal or not. This is natural because they have to protect the food that enters their bodies. After that comes the issue of places of worship.

Do halal tourist destination countries have institutions that provide halal certification to their culinary delights and restaurants?

They have institutions like the MUI here which have the authority to determine the halalness of food and restaurants. If the agency has provided certification, then we believe it.

What else do you hope for from this halal tourism in the future?

Huge potential comes from Middle Eastern countries. They visit more Europe and America. How can we attract Middle Eastern tourists to come to Indonesia? Unfortunately, we have not fully exploited this potential. Indonesia has a variety of tourist attractions, and the majority of the population is Muslim, just like Middle Easterners.

Why are Middle Eastern tourists considered potential? They tend to spend longer periods of time when visiting, sometimes with family. Tourists who come with their families usually spend more money than backpackers. In my opinion, this should be a priority in marketing halal tourism. The tourist image also needs to be improved because this is halal tourism.

What about flight support?

Currently, there are direct flights from several cities to Jeddah by Garuda Indonesia and Lion Air. Emirates also offers direct flights to Bali. If more airlines opened direct flight routes, of course it would be even better.

How is the community prepared to welcome foreign tourists?

Public awareness in welcoming foreign tourists is good, but it must continue to be improved so that tourists are impressed and want to return. Apart from that, tourist satisfaction will also be an important part of our tourism promotion.

In China, I had a good experience. There, we stay overnight directly in people's homes, eat with them, and participate in activities with them. The same thing can also be applied here by providing homestays. Of course, the host community must be trained to provide a satisfying experience for tourists.

Are the majority of tourists coming to Indonesia currently families or backpackers?

The majority of tourists who come are more likely to be backpackers or individual tourists who want to know more about Indonesia. However, tourists who bring their families have more value because they tend to spend more time and money in tourist destinations. This is a focus for all of us.

When is the busiest time for tourists to visit?

The busiest time to visit is during the year-end holidays and school holidays around June-July. Those are the times when Indonesian tourists travel most actively. Meanwhile, for foreign tourists, peak visits occur in the spring and summer.

What is the added value of using halal tourism?

Apart from halal food and facilities for worship, other activities are also guaranteed in accordance with Islamic law. There are no events that violate religious rules. This provides a sense of security for families who take their children on halal tours. The itinerary is also clear, and the tour guide understands religious issues. This is different from general tour packages which often have additional events that are not clear.



Cheriatna, Inspired by the Hajj Plane Flying Over the House

As a child, Cheriatna, who lived in Bintaro area, South Jakarta, was fascinated by the Hajj plane that passed over his house. It happens once a year, when the Hajj season arrives. After the Hajj season, there were no more plane routes passing through his residence. “At that time, my friends and I, around 3 or 4 years old, screamed when the plane crossed the sky. 'Airplanes, planes, planes'," said the man who was born in Jakarta, August 5 1974, remembering his childhood.

Those childhood memories carried over until he graduated from high school and then wanted to travel the world like the plane he saw. “After graduating from high school, I immediately worked in Japan. "There I experienced difficulty getting a halal menu, difficulty finding a mosque for congregational prayers," he said.

Returning from Japan, Cheriatna has made up his mind to no longer work with other people. “I am determined to stop being an employee. I am trying to become an organic food distributor. "Because I achieved my target of getting a bonus for traveling abroad," admitted the man who has visited Malaysia, China and several other countries.

“When I traveled to China I found the same problem, it was difficult to find halal food and a place to worship. "The problem is that this country is not like Indonesia, which has a Muslim majority," he said.

In 2010 I was offered to open a Hajj and Umrah tourism agency business. “The results turned out to be extraordinarily good. I then thought, maybe God gave this as my path. After two years working in that travel. "In 2012 I took the courage to open my own travel company," said the owner of Cheria Holiday.

From the Chinese Embassy

The way to pursue tourism became more open when the China Tourism Board came to his office. “They offer a halal tourism program through my travel. After I offered it, the halal tour package to China was welcomed by the public. Explanation is less needed, but there are quite a lot of people who join," he said.

The Chinese really understand the needs of the Indonesian Muslim community who want to travel but are hampered by halal menus that are difficult to find and places of worship that are difficult. "The Chinese side responded very well to all of this by offering a halal tourism program," he said.

Cheriatna has just returned from China to fulfill an invitation to try out a halal tour package in Guilin Province. “We were invited to Guilin. And they are very ready to welcome Muslim tourists from Indonesia and other countries. Mosques, halal restaurants have all been prepared. We should emulate what China is doing in developing halal tourism," he said.

To develop halal tourism, the Chinese government includes the Muslim community in Guilin province. They become guides, cooks and so on. So with this model the community is also happy because they are involved," he said.

According to Cheriatna, what China has done to attract Muslim tourists from Indonesia can be imitated by tourism stakeholders in Indonesia. “For example, the government wants to target people from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries to come to Indonesia. What are the needs of potential tourists from Saudi Arabia, that needs to be communicated to the entrepreneurs involved," he said.

Halal Tourism Prospects

Because the prospects for halal tourism are good, many travel entrepreneurs who previously did not provide halal tourism services are slowly getting involved. “There is sugar and there are ants. Those who are keen to see opportunities don't want to miss out. "Take part in marketing halal tourism," he said.

What's unique about halal tourism is that it is not only popular with Muslim communities. Non-Muslims also like and take part in halal tour packages. "The reason they want to join is because they see it is cleaner and healthier. "Also, the activity schedule doesn't vary," he said.

Because they already believe in halal tourism, non-Muslim customers can order again up to five times. "I believe in halal tourism so much that some of my customers repeat orders five times," said Cheriatna, who has visited five continents.

Another thing that makes them believe halal tourism is more relaxing. “The general tour package is mixed. Some are LGBT, some are drunk. If it's halal tourism, that can't be done. Everything must be based on Islamic law. "We firmly do not accept couples who don't have a marriage certificate," continued Cheriatna, who instills in all his children having dreams.

To run a halal tourism business, Cheriatna involves his 11 children and in-laws in this business. “All my children are home schooled. Everyone is involved in this halal tourism business. There are those who become tour leaders, guides and others. "So I'm with them almost every day," he said

Since his child was 12 years old, Cheriatna has invited his child to be actively involved. When they are 17 years old they are ready to take a tour group. "My 17 year old son can take groups to China, Korea and Europe," said Cheriatna.When it comes to assignments, he can be tougher on his children. He also applies punishment and reward.

"Actually, halal tourism is similar to conventional tourism. What makes it different is the additional worship facilities needed by Muslims and a halal food menu during the trip. This addition is the main difference between halal tourism and non-halal tourism,"