Beyond halal food and amenities, new mindset needed to court Muslims

From left: Shinjan Sarangi, Shaji Abu Salih, Ali Akbar Sahiwala and Devesh Kuwadekar

Travel suppliers looking to cater to Muslim travellers need to look beyond the basic requirements of halal food and environment, said speakers at the Muslim travel session during the recent ITB Asia in Singapore. Instead, service providers need to take a more holistic approach to the market.

Ali Akbar Sahiwala, creative director and founder of Rehla Design, said “people often think squarely about Muslim travellers”. Instead, they need to take note of “Place, Pixel, and Personality”.

From left: Shinjan Sarangi, Shaji Abu Salih, Ali Akbar Sahiwala and Devesh Kuwadekar

“In Place, figure out what is unique about your destination and how convenient it is for people to stay. For Pixel, make sure that communication is clear, and that customers can easily obtain information,” Ali shared. As for Personality, he said the Muslim brand was lacking unique travel products and offerings.

“It is not just about halal food, but making sure that you are connecting Muslim travellers with the local culture, and understand what they want,” stressed Sahiwala.

Davesh Kuwadekar, vice president and head of market development of Mastercard, said: “We also need to talk to airport authorities and duty-free shops. I don’t see many products catering to the Muslim market.”

Citing an example, Davesh said that during the months of February or March there would be a Chinese New Year podium at airports, but Muslim festivals were usually overlooked.

Meanwhile, Shaji Abu Salih, head of sales and marketing at Dubai-based Shaza Hotels, said catering to the fundamental needs of Muslim travellers alone was not enough.

He said: “There is no one solution (that fits all), as the the halal meaning is complex. For our hotel, we have products that cater to different (Muslim) markets.”

Shaji explained: “Within our two new hotels that are currently being built in Mandalika, Lombok, our facilities will be different from our (other hotels) which target Saudi travellers, for example.”

The new Mandalika hotels will cater to Indian and Pakistani Muslims who want destination weddings, while existing properties for Saudi Muslims are family-friendly.

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