FAEEZ FADHLILLAH, CEO, SALAM STANDARD, EXPLAINS HOW INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS CAN MEET THE NEEDS OF THIS GROWING MARKET.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How valuable is the Muslim travel market?
FAEEZ FADHLILLAH: The global Muslim travel market is one of the fastest segment of travel.
Based on Salam Standard's The Global Economic Impact of Muslim Tourism 2015/2016 Report, Muslim travel contributed more than USD136 billion towards the global economy in the year 2015, creating more than four million jobs worldwide.
This shows how significant Muslim travel is and what great impact Muslim travellers have on the global economy.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How many members in each category of Salam Standard Certification do you have? How does this compare to 2016?
FAEEZ FADHLILLAH: We are having approximately 55,000 hotels indexed on Salam Standard.
A big majority of those hotels reach bronze certification, especially in non-Muslim majority countries.
The rest is evenly distributed between silver and gold.
The ratio of this distribution did not change significantly over the past two years, although we have quite a big number of hotels which upgrade their facilities for Muslim travellers and were bronze in one year and reach gold in the next year.
This shows that many hotels realise the importance and significance to their own revenue, booking numbers and satisfaction of their guests to provide for this group of travellers too and not sideline them.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What are considered to be the most important factors for Muslim travellers when choosing accommodation?
FAEEZ FADHLILLAH: According to our Salam Standard survey, where we asked 5,000 Muslims from different countries and cultures around the world, the most important factors for Muslim travellers when choosing their accommodation are the availability of certain Muslimfriendly features.
Very important is the availability of Halal food – or the possibility to pre-order halal food before arrival – as well as the possibility to get a praying mat and the praying direction.
Many see the possibility to remove alcohol from the mini-bar or a full alcoholfree room as an important feature too.
In terms of destination, the reputation of a place of being Muslim-friendly or not is becoming more important for Muslims to choose. As well as the overall safety of the holiday destination.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: With the number of Muslim travellers expected to soar in the coming years, what more can be done to meet their needs?
FAEEZ FADHLILLAH: Hotels can increase their facilities and services for Muslim travellers to attract them to their hotel.
The possibility of getting Halal food in a hotel is certainly a key factor.
But 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 at the place.
I think more and more hotels will realise, that the service level and satisfaction of guests from many background matters and will make provisions for them.
In terms of destinations I think 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 well, so that they know what is available.
Muslim services need to become an integral and naturally available part of the global hospitality industry, and every industry player which is offering them, will eventually see the positive effects for their business, brand and customer satisfaction.