Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara

HALAL TRAVEL: Core Requirements (Part 2)

Despite new up and coming trends in the Halal travel sector, the sought-after services and facilities have fundamentally remained the same.

Gonzalez highlighted that Armed Forces Officers Club & Hotel is suited to such visitors as each room has Qibla and a Quran inside, its pool has women’s only timings and the address boasts an onsite mosque.

Furthermore, promoting itself as a priority choice for Muslims, Radzhabov explained that along with exclusively serving Halal products, Ayla Hotels & Resorts are dry properties.

As described by Hewitson, Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara is one of the only private pool villa resorts in Salalah, making it well-positioned to meet the needs of Muslim travellers who often opt for private settings. It also has separate male and female changing facilities at its spa, a prayer room and Halal dining.

While noting that Malaysia, Turkey, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are among the most popular destinations among Muslim customers due to the available services and understanding of their needs, Lina Bassam, executive director, wholesale, Nirvana Travel & Tourism, explained, “Most of the hotels are recognising the growth of Muslim travellers, hence they are adjusting their services for the group to be [as] comfortable as possible.”

However, despite increased awareness regarding the needs of Muslim tourists as well as a rising number of hotels seeking to attract Halal-conscious visitors, Secgin explained, “[...] The choice is still pretty limited.

There is a huge demand and huge potential for hotel owners to tap into this market by offering Halal-friendly services.”

Upon surveying 5,000 Muslim holidaymakers from various countries and cultures in a Salam Sandard report, Fadhlillah concluded, “[...] Even with little investment, the service level of accommodation towards Muslim travellers can be increased significantly by providing praying mats, a Quran or the praying timetable and direction.”

HALAL-FRIENDLY DESTINATIONS

It is not just hotels that are focussed on tapping into the potential of Halal tourism, but tourism authorities are also aiming to capitalise on the lucrative segment.

Haitham Mattar, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), noted that the authority has opened a new representation office in Jeddah, on the back of a 29.5 percent year-on-year growth of guests from Saudi Arabia.

Mattar also highlighted that RAKTDA is looking into maximising the potential of every source market in order to reach its target of one million arrivals by the end of 2018. He explained, “An example of this is during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

The results during this period were particularly promising given that it is a typically lower period of occupancy.

The success is as a direct result of strategic initiatives and promotional activities undertaken in domestic and international source markets, and we are thrilled to see those efforts to boost summer numbers [...].”

Additionally, Fadhlillah underscored how important a destination’s reputation for being safe and Muslim-friendly is.

He elaborated, “[...] The need of Muslim infrastructure is certainly an important factor, like public praying places at popular points or the number of Halal restaurants at a destination.

It is also certainly a plus point for any destination to advertise their Muslim-friendly services to current and future guests, so that they know what is available.”

Meanwhile, Yamina Aoucher, director, tourism development and marketing, Ajman Tourism Development Department, pinpointed that the emirate is especially popular with the Muslim travel market who seek Halal-friendly experiences that fit in with their faith and way of life.

She explained that along with a broad range of Halal-compliant hotels, restaurants, and offerings such as women-only taxis, Ajman appeals to visitors from the Arab world due to its felicitous tourist sites.

Aoucher exemplified, “[...] The emirate’s attractions are rooted in the ancient Islamic heritage of the emirate and reflect a fascinating history that will resonate with Muslim tourists.”

Yet, while cultural similarity is important for some travellers, Nuno Neves, cluster general manager, Park Inn by Radisson Muscat and Park Inn by Radisson Hotel & Residence Duqm, underscored that this is a common fallacy to fall into.

While Muslims travellers have faith-based needs, he pinpointed, “[...] In actual custom, they would like to experience the local cultural heritage and traditions with a touch of modernity.”

Echoing this sentiment, Bassam said, “More Muslim travellers are very keen to try new destinations and places [...].” Therefore, it is important to recognise that even with common religious requirements, Muslim travellers comprise a diverse global market, with a myriad of demands and wishes when it comes to travel.