Samia Omar Bwana founded and run a travel company based in Kenya called Halal Safaris Africa. She organizes Safari trips primarily for Muslim travelers but also have non-Muslim guests. The focus of their services is catering to the needs of Muslim travelers such as halal food. Prior to starting Halal Safaris Africa in 2018, she worked in conservation and tourism. In our series of interviews, Samia shares with CrescentRating her experiences as a Muslim woman business and family traveler.
CrescentRating: What are the challenges you faced as a Muslim women traveler?
Samia: In some of the places I have been, the mosques are only for men and there is no place for women to pray. I often have to find an alternative place to pray and as a result, unable to pray on time as I have to wait for my male family members to finish praying in the mosques.
CrescentRating: Do you think businesses are doing a good job of catering to Muslim women?
Samia: I think services for different markets is still a new thing. There are so many hotels telling you they are unable to close the pool if you ask them for women-only hours. It is important for businesses to be mindful of dietary specifications, needs of different travelers and to be considerate. It should not be just to Muslims but menus and facilities should consider everyone, regardless of their religion. When I was at the airport in San Francisco, they have a meditation room where everyone can use to pray there. It is a first step. If you are unable to accommodate to Muslims, at least accommodate to all religions.
CrescentRating: Do you look for recreational spaces with privacy?
Samia: When I travel, it is usually to visit family and not for those amenities. So, I don’t use the spas or pools. I feel that it is important for destinations to provide these amenities for the people who want them. I have customers who signed up for my tour and sought such amenities. But personally, I don’t look for it.
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?
Samia: I think my travel inspiration comes from my parents and how I was brought up. I have colleagues and friends who are Muslims, but not interested in travel. So, I don’t really think it is the faith that made me interested in travel but it was how I was brought up. As much as we would like to think that Muslim travelers are more engaged with the community, my experience is that Muslim travelers are more interested in luxury travels, being in the hotel and taking nice photos. By majority, the Muslim travelers who wants to engage in social causes are those who grew up in the West. They want to learn about the local community, they ask questions about the different issues and causes to support. They want to volunteer and help out. Digital has definitely aided in my travels because there are so many apps these days that make it possible for you to plan affordable travels. You can go on Airbnb, you don’t have to stay in hotels. There are so many options.