Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

New Zealand a popular destination for Ramadan

Prayer at sundown, looking towards Mecca at the Hawke's Bay Mosque and Islamic Centre. Photo / Duncan Brown
Prayer at sundown, looking towards Mecca at the Hawke's Bay Mosque and Islamic Centre. Photo / Duncan Brown

Shorter fasting days during the Islamic holy month could be the attraction to draw wealthy Muslim tourists to New Zealand, a University of Auckland academic says.

Ramadan, which could start on June 6, will run for a month over the shortest winter days.

This means Muslims here will fast for just about 11 hours each day -- one of the shortest in the world -- compared to more than 20 hours in Europe or about 15 hours in the Middle East.

Dr Zain Ali, head of Islamic research studies, said it put New Zealand in a good position to market itself as a destination for Ramadan.

"The added bonus with New Zealand is that it has got way, way shorter fasting time because Ramadan is in winter," Dr Ali said.

"So, I'm sure if people are wealthy and are looking to travel during Ramadan, New Zealand is a very good option."

Ramadan is a time when Muslims reconnect with the Koran which they believe is the word of God, Dr Ali said.

"You get the more wealthy families who during Ramadan would go to a hotel, where they don't have to worry about the daily chores during the fasting month, and focus on their spirituality," he said.

"The food's catered for in the morning and in the evening, and during the day they can just chill out."

Dr Ali said many of the bigger hotels in Auckland had halal menus to meet the requirements of such tourists.

Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand spokesperson Dr Anwar Ghani said Islam did not prohibit travel during Ramadan.

"Our climate, availability of halal food, number of mosques and Islamic centres spread in major towns which are open for night prayers and friendly environment can be an attractive proposition," Dr Ghani said.

"Our shorter days may also be a consideration for those who find it physically difficult to fast longer hours in a more dry and warmer climate."

But Halal Tour New Zealand director Purwanti Rachmadi said Australia was the preferred choice for Ramadan travellers.

"A number of hotels in Gold Coast, Brisbane and Melbourne provide suhur (pre-dawn meal), which is difficult to find in New Zealand," she said.

"New Zealand is still really far behind when compared to Australia."

Tourism New Zealand said it saw halal tourism as an opportunity, but it was not focusing specifically on fasting Muslims.

"We need to ensure there is adequate product to meet the specific needs of halal travellers before we specifically market this as a reason to travel here," said Steven Dixon, Tourism South & South East Asia regional manager.

Muslims are forecast to make up almost one in three of the world's population and halal tourism to be worth over $200 billion by 2025.

Mr Dixon said the organisation was currently working on a halal food guide to support the delivery of experience for Muslim tourists.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) also noted that additional air services to and from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar had made Auckland "more accessible than ever" for travellers from the Middle East.

General manager Vivien Bridgwater said its tourism strategy focused on the Pacific Rim, which included some countries with predominantly Muslim populations.

"At this point, we don't have any specific plans to target Ramadan as a standalone marketing proposition," she said.

"As we do with all ethnicities, we want to ensure people have a great visitor experience while they are in Auckland."

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is considered to be the holiest month by Muslims, when the Koran, the Islamic holy book, was revealed to prophet Muhammad.

When is Ramadan?

Depending on moon sighting, or hilal, the month will start this year on Monday, June 6th and will continue for 30 days until Tuesday, July 5th.

Why do Muslims fast?

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, and fasting in Ramadan is obligatory for Muslims. No food or drink is consumed during daylight hours.

Where are the longest and shortest fasts in the world?

In Iceland, fasting averages more than 21 hours, whereas the shorter winter days means the fasting day in New Zealand and Australia is just about 11 hours.

- NZ Herald

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