Talia Minullina launches certification of Tatarstan health resorts under halal standard

Five republican health resorts belonging to Tatneft, POZIS and other companies have applied for a certificate

Tatarstan has announced the beginning of the experiment on voluntary certification of the hospitality industry under halal standards. In early December, the Investment Development Agency of the Republic of Tatarstan chose an independent operator who began receiving applications from health resorts of the republic to grant them the certificate. On 25 December, the head of Investment Development Agency, Talia Minullina, and Chairman of the Committee on Halal Standards at the Muslim Spiritual Board of the Republic of Tatarstan (MSB RT) Irek Ziganshin answered the questions from representatives of the first five Tatarstan sanatoriums that expressed the desire to reformat their hotels according to the sharia. The correspondent of Realnoe Vremya followed the discussion. Sergey Ivanov, the head of the Tatarstan State Committee for Tourism, who showed up at the end of the meeting, warned that the halal certificate will “strictly limit the activities of the sanatorium”.

Sanatoriums will fall under halal certification

Talia Minullina, the head of the Investment Development Agency of Tatarstan, announced the programme Halal Tourism, which is to cover the health resorts of the republic for the guests from Arab countries and domestic tourists with the voluntary halal certification.

“Tatarstan is one of the most popular destinations where people travel under halal standards. Today we need to create conditions for tourists from Arab countries, which will contribute to the investment promotion of our territory," Minullina welcomed the representatives of numerous health resorts of the republic.

The head of the agency explained the need to “halalise” the hospitality industry by that today Muslim guests “go nobody knows where and have to organize their leisure time on their own.” As one of the representatives of the MSB RT explained to Realnoe Vremya, today hotels in Kazan do not meet the Muslim canons of residence: they have no halal kitchen or private place for prayer and ablution. “Yet it's not such a big expense," he said. Staying in modern hotels, foreign guests get out of a difficult situation by themselves, which inevitably affects the business relationship with the Arab business.

“No one would invest in territory no one knows," Talia Minullina said in her speech.

Life in halal Tatarstan

The head of the agency reported that on behalf of President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov it has been developed the halallifestyle road map, which implies a way of life under halal standards.

“This means a standard of high-quality services and products. Within the framework of this map, it is planned to certify sanatoriums, which will be advertised and promoted in international markets," explained Talia Minullina.

Later, she clarified that after the certification is completed, a register of sanatoriums with a halal certificate will be created. According to her, a set of measures is being implemented in accordance with the activities of the Russia — Islamic World Strategic Vision Group, which has been headed by President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov since 2014 at the instruction of President Vladimir Putin. “The road map covers the areas such as halal tourism, halal production, fashion, finance, IT and media," the speaker explained.

Five applications for certification

As it turned out, representatives of five health resorts of the republic, who applied for certification, came for the meeting. It is Raduga sanatorium located in Nizhnyaya Kama national park in Naberezhnye Chelny, Yan sanatorium of Tatneft in the village of Potashnaya Polyana in the Almetyevsk district, Delfin sanatorium in Zelenodolsk owned by POZIS, Zhemchuzhina sanatorium in Naberezhnye Chelny, and Shifaly Su — Izhminvody in the village of Izhevka in the Mendeleevsk region.

In early December, the Investment Development Agency of the Republic of Tatarstan selected an independent operator who began receiving applications from health resorts of the republic to grant them the certificate. During the meeting, one of the participants asked why the right to conduct the certification went to a non-resident company from Sochi, not a Tatarstan company (the name was not mentioned — editor's note). Talia Minullina confirmed that the tender was really won by a company from Sochi, but she did not disclose the name. She couldn't resist a little irony in response:

“You know, if I call and say: 'Hello, tomorrow we have a tender, please come'... It's a corruption component," she retorted.

The head of the agency hinted that they should monitor tenders and win them. Dmitry Sintishevsky, the executive director of Raduga sanatorium, later admitted to Realnoe Vremya that the invitation to participate in halal certification was unexpected for many participants. Usually, this service costs 60,000 rubles (the certificate is valid for one year and is not extended automatically — editor's note). But the procedure will be free for Tatarstan sanatoriums. During the meeting, Talia Minullina said that the funds for halal certification were allocated by the president of the Republic of Tatarstan. In total, there are more than fifty sanatoriums of different types operating in the republic, but only five of them have expressed the desire.

Girls in bikinis should not be in public places

Irek Ziganshin, the chairperson of the Halal Standards Committee at the MSB RT, spoke about the main requirements for sanatoriums wishing to obtain a certificate.

“Our government is seriously concerned about the services available not only for the population but also for the guests of the republic, to meet high standards. Tatarstan is a window to the Islamic world, so it [the hospitality industry] must meet them," he prefaced his speech before announcing the main requirements of the sharia.

The first concerns the accommodation of guests. “It should be separate, according to gender," he said. The second is the arrangement of rooms according to the sharia, that is, the room should not include bars with alcohol, obscene pictures and other images, as well as unethical TV channels. Third, protection of personal space with curtains. Fourth, the presence of the opportunity for individual ablution.

Separate explanations were given about the place for reading the prayer. According to him, it should be a “clean place” that can be located either in the room, or on the floor, or in the building”. Most of all, he said, Muslim guests are afraid of girls in bikinis — 'they should not be in public places”. In general, for women there should be a “separate women's pool, sauna”. Of course, hookahs are forbidden.

He spoke briefly about nutrition: “Do not allow the kitchen to be shared for the preparation of ordinary dishes and under the standards. You need to store food separately," he warned.

Dmitry Sintishevsky asked if there were any limitations to staff by religion: “For example, can an Orthodox cook halal food, or can a masseur serve a Muslim?"

“Not the opposite genders," Talia Minullina hastened to explain.

“Yes, yes," said Irek Ziganshin. “A man can serve a man, a woman can serve a woman. And about whether non-Muslims can cool halal food — of course, they can. We have a certain recipe, and they cook from the raw materials that we check.”

“Is it supposed to appoint a responsible official who would monitor compliance with the requirements of the sharia?" his colleagues asked after him.

“There are muhtasibs in the districts, our inspectors go and check in real time. We do not just issue a certificate and forget it. No, we do check. And consult. Sometimes it happens that businesses change products in the procurement and consult with us," said Irek Ziganshin.

“Sanatorium is chosen not by whether it is halal or not, but by diseases”

By the end of the conversation, the head of the State Committee of the Republic of Tatarstan for Tourism, Sergey Ivanov, showed up. “You have the final word — what would you say about halal certification?" they asked him. The head of the agency noted that “a halal certificate strictly limits the activities of the sanatorium”. In his opinion, this will affect many processes — service, meetings, cooking.

“The occupancy of sanatoriums — 70-75%. It is still unknown how much the hall certification would add to the flow," he doubts. “It is necessary to understand the market. There are billions of people, but do they need these services? There's research to be done," he hesitated.

According to Sergey Ivanov, the certification of the nutritive process is sufficient, covering the entire activity of the sanatorium is not necessary.

“Whether it will give additional loading — it is not known. After all, sanatorium is chosen not by whether it is halal or not, but by diseases. At least the domestic market," he continued. “First of all, we should go on the path of nutrition certification. I'm for the experiment. There should be offer.”

Of course, we don't have 100 billboards in Moscow

“Certification of sanatoriums for Arab guests can also be useful for domestic tourists who could be happy to come to a certified sanatorium, but today they go nobody knows where and have to organize leisure time on their own," insisted Talia Minullina.

According to her, the halal certificate can become an image component for those sanatoriums whose load is about 100%. “And if there is potential for the development and loading of the object that you manage, we would like it to become an additional incentive. Then we will have the opportunity to create a list of accredited and certified health resorts at the national level and include it in the promotion programme. We have direct flights to Dubai, Istanbul, and other Arab countries, so it seems to us that there is an opportunity to attract tourists from the countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. In general, the halal certificate can give a marketing boost, quite a good one. We hope that the certification will be quick and painless and will lead to commercial success.”

“And how are you going to promote halal sanatoriums?" someone in the audience quietly asked.

“Of course, we don't have 100 billboards in Moscow," said Sergey Ivanov. “But there are other resources.”

By Luiza Ignatyeva