LOCATED on the south-western side of Taiwan island, the city of Kaohsiung has enjoyed a recent upswing in the number of Muslim tourists, particularly from East Asia, over the past several years. This is due to various initiatives and efforts by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau to attract more visitors from the region. During a recent visit to Kaohsiung, Malaysian media were given an insight into the measures taken by the city's local tourism bureau to attract Muslim travellers. Kaohsiung Tourism Bureau director-general Tseng Tzu-Wen said: "From January to June this year, more than 30,000 Singaporeans and 25,000 Malaysians visited Kaohsiung, compared to last year's total number of visitors which was 50,000." She added that although there were no exact figures, many of the Muslim visitors came from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, and that she expected the number of Muslim visitors to continue to rise in future. Tseng said the bureau had increased the number of Muslim-friendly facilities throughout Kaohsiung city to cater to their needs. They include Muslim prayer rooms being set up at the city's popular scenic spots such as the Lotus Pond, Sizihwan Bay, and Chengcing Lake. "Apart from that, we are also encouraging hoteliers and restaurateurs to apply for the Muslim-friendly Tourism Certification," Tseng added. "So far, the response has been quite satisfactory because there are more and more Muslim-friendly hotels and restaurants available around the city." Currently, there are around nine hotels that have been certified as Muslim-friendly, and a further five hotels will be added into the list by yearend. On how many more will be certified, Tseng said that while the bureau has not set a particular target, everything hinges upon the response by travellers towards facilities that have been certified. However, the bureau definitely hopes that more hotels would be willing to come onboard. Tseng pointed out that some restaurants within the hotels have also applied for the Muslim-friendly Tourism Certification. "Whenever there are any Muslim diners who wish to dine at a certified restaurant, they would be led to a private dining area where the staff would prepare a different set of cutlery for them to use," Tseng said. "In terms of food preparation, the restaurant would ensure the food is cooked in a separate kitchen with different utensils, so that the diners can eat without having to worry if the food is halal or non-halal." The bureau has also created a mobile app to assist travellers in locating other Muslim-friendly restaurants if they do not wish to dine in the hotel. "The mobile app not only provides the necessary F&B information, it also gives information like accommodation and places of attraction which all tourists can use to plan their journey or trip," Tseng explained. "Such information is also available on the tourism bureau website, in English, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Korean to cater to all tourists."