Q Akashah is an Account Director at Ogilvy and is based in Singapore. She works closely with companies; advising and working with International brands to effectively engage with Muslim consumers, as well as supporting efforts by halal businesses to make syariah-compliant products and services accessible and attractive to non-Muslim consumers. Her diverse client portfolio covers multiple industries including economics, banking and finance, and personal care, amongst others. In addition to her Islamic marketing portfolio, Q also specialises in public relations. In our series of interviews, Q shares with CrescentRating her experiences and insights as both a Muslim woman traveler and a Brand and Communications Practitioner.
CrescentRating: What are the challenges you faced as a Muslim woman traveler?
Q: It is still a challenge to find halal food – especially good local cuisine - and safety is always a watch-out. Especially when I’m with hijab-wearing females, we get extra attention in more homogeneous societies and that can be unnerving. When choosing a destination, safety and how accepting the community is of different cultures are key. As a matter of principle, there are some countries I won’t be visiting anytime soon because of issues such as persecution, racism, etcetera.
CrescentRating: Do you think businesses are doing a good job of catering to Muslim women or is there a gap?
Q: It’s definitely a work-in-progress and that’s encouraging. In Europe last year, I was disappointed at not being able to experience the hot springs and pools which had restrictive dress codes where you could only wear specific types of one-piece or two-piece swim attire. Long tights or long sleeved tops were not allowed. Perhaps there’s just a practical reason for it that I’m not getting or could be clearly explained. Two other opportunities for businesses are in providing halal local food as souvenirs to bring home, and for accommodation to have bidets. Bidets are especially important for personal hygiene and ablution. I check hotels for the presence of a bidet or, at the least, a shower stall (instead of a bath tub), when making bookings.
CrescentRating: Do you look for recreational spaces with privacy?
Q: Yes, that’s my first choice if it’s not ridiculously expensive. Female-only options where your modesty is not compromised, also works. For me, it’s really about getting value and if the premium is warranted. For example, if I’m being charged a premium for an all-female spa, the services need to be of premium quality too. Don’t charge me more because it’s exclusive for females, but the services are sub-par. That’s not good value, and unfair for customers.
CrescentRating: Our study shows that Muslim women travelers are empowered by faith, communities and social causes and this is enabled by digital. What are your thoughts?
Q: I agree. I went to Bosnia as a newlywed because I wanted to learn about the persecution that happened. We also learned how to strengthen our marriage. Our faith was a big part of our travel and the reason we went. I feel connected to the Muslim community and my favourite part of travel is when I meet other Muslims especially in non-Muslim countries. There’s an immediate sense of familiarity and kinship being around fellow Muslims. The religion allowed us to connect with other people whom we otherwise would not have anything in common. In terms of social causes, someone once told me that I should make a small contribution to every country I am visiting. I try to do this through donations to charities or at the mosques, for example. I would love to travel more for charity work but part of me is a bit scared as a woman traveler. Digital helps in my travels whether it’s to
discover places to visit, halal/Muslim-friendly options, and also places to avoid for my own safety as a female and/or a Muslim.