Nabeel Shariff is the founder of the website Rihaala and Serendipity Tailormade, a team of halal-friendly travel experts who are selling packages and tailor-made travel to Muslim travellers.
Shariff is a speaker during ITB Asia’s Muslim Travel Conference for a session entitled “Seven ways to make Muslim travellers love your destination”. He tells ITB Asia how halal-friendly travel is providing a flexible answer to Muslim travellers’ wishes.
It is important to note that like non- Muslim travellers, not all Muslim travellersareseekingthesametype of holiday and what they demand in terms of their faith-based needs will also vary. However, what all Muslim travellers do generally desire is a travel experience; and what they value mirrors general global travellers’ trends – from authenticity and adventure to local cultural experiences and responsible/ethical tourism.
Some Muslim travellers seek strict alcohol-free resorts, female-only swimming pools and a selection of itineraries with break times for the five daily prayers. But that’s not for everyone. There is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to halal travel. In the coming years, services from accommodation to attractions will have to evolve to accommodate a common ground that is acceptable to the majority of Muslim travellers to ensure they can reap the benefits.
HOTELIERS’, DESTINATIONS’ AND ATTRACTIONS’ GROWING ATTENTION TO MUSLIM TRAVELLERS HAS MEANT MORE AND MORE SERVICES.
What does Halal travel entail?
Halal travel is a term commonly used for Muslim-friendly travel. Contrary to common perceptions it does not refer to travel for religious or pilgrimage purposes, but rather trips that take Muslim faith-based needs into consideration. These include halal-friendly dining experiences, the provision of prayer mats/ facilities, privacy enhancements, family-friendly surroundings and alcohol-free options. From our own study from April 2018, 97% of Muslim travellers stated that privacy of accommodation is a “must have” or “nice to have” and that 73% of Muslim travellers want to experience new cultures, but at the same time be able to meet their prayer requirements during their trip.
Do you believe travel advisors have a clear vision of the market? If not, what do you think are their key misconceptions?
I believe there have been some incredible strides for Muslim friendly travel, considering 10 years ago there was no formal structure in place. When it comes to faith, there have been challenges and perceptions to overcome. Hoteliers’, destinations’ and attractions’ growing attention to Muslim travellers has meant more and more services.
Tell us about your company and how you facilitate Halal travel.
Over the past nine years, Serendipity Tailormade has bridged the gap between Muslim travellers and major destinations around the world, creating experiences that meet Muslim travellers’ aspirations and faith-based needs. The 2019 launch of Rihaala.com, our first online booking platform dedicated to Muslim travellers, is now helping them to curate and book their own personalised journey. As a company that seeks to be a pioneer in the halal travel space, launching Rihaala was the next logical step in our growth story. Travel technology has moved on and so have Muslim travellers and we are listening to our customers about how they want to book and experience travel now and in the future.
How important is ITB Asia as a platform to discuss issues like this?
A valued platform such as ITB Asia profiles the rise in Muslim friendly travel and shows how far this sector of the market will play in the future, especially from the Asia continent. Muslim travellers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and not forgetting The Philippines and Thailand provide the region and beyond with a wealth of opportunities to diversify their audience from the more traditional markets. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have already seen the positivity of providing Muslim- friendly services and as more destinations follow suit, Muslim travellers will duly reciprocate by exploring and visiting.
Photo: Nabeel Shariff, Founder, Rihaala.com and Serendipity Tailormade