The profile of the Muslim traveler has often been over-simplified in the past. A few years ago, outbound Muslim travel was primarily focused on a few specific destinations while other destinations did not possess an adequate understanding of the requirements of Muslim travelers. The behavior and the profile of Muslim travelers have changed over the last two decades. They are increasingly looking at destinations with high levels of services which take into account their unique needs.
They are also looking at destinations which are safe for Muslims, as both real and perceived safety have become a high priority. A few destinations – namely Malaysia, Dubai and Turkey – have been able to benefit from this changing behavior, as they have begun to offer Muslim travelers accommodation, facilities and services that cater to their needs.
Six faith-based needs are identified as the main areas for Muslim travelers. While the majority of Muslim travelers adhere to some of these needs, the level of importance varies among Muslims.
Halal food is by far the most important service that a Muslim traveler looks out for when traveling. Acceptability of the different levels of Halal food assurance
varies among Muslims. The acceptability also varies depending on the region the Muslim travelers are coming from. Having food outlets with proper Halal assurance that is
easily identifiable is the preferred option sought by Muslim visitors from Southeast Asia and Western Europe.
Prayer is one of the central elements of Islamic practice and worship and it is the second of the five pillars of Islam. According to the Pew Research Centre report,
63 percent of Muslims perform the five daily prayers. While traveling, some of them will combine some prayers and perform them three times a day.
3. Water-usage Friendly Washrooms
For Muslims, water plays a key role in purity and cleanliness, both of which are core aspects of the faith. Physical cleanliness is stressed as an essential component of
being a Muslim. As such, special attention is given to hygiene in the washroom. This entails the use of water in the toilets, and it is discomforting for Muslim travelers where the setup for water use is not available. Providing such facilities has become less cumbersome now with the widespread availability of hand showers, bidets or even Japanese-style toilets. Common in Muslim countries as well as South and Southeast Asian countries, the hand shower is a plumbing fixture placed in a holder against a wall by the toilet.
In order to cater to this need, the services and facilities that are frequented by Muslim travelers need to be equipped with prayer rooms. Another important consideration is the cleansing ritual referred to as Wudhu. Wudhu is performed before a Muslim performs their prayers. This requires the prayer rooms to have “foot washing” facilities.
4. Ramadhan Services
Although Muslims are less likely to travel during the month of Ramadhan, there are still many looking to spend this time away from home, especially if this period coincides with school holidays. In addition, an increasing number of Muslims take holiday breaks during the two Muslim festivals. Destinations looking to attract Muslim travelers during this period need to be able to accomodate their special needs during the month of fasting. One such example is the catering of pre-dawn Halal meals by hotels.
5. No Non-Halal Activities
Muslims consider some activities to be ‘Haram’ or non-Halal. When it comes to traveling, these are generally centered on requiring a family-friendly environment. As such, some
Muslims would prefer to avoid facilities that serve alcohol, have discotheques or is adjacent to a gambling resort.
6. Recreational Facilities and Services with Privacy
A sub-segment of Muslim travelers are also looking for recreational facilities that provide privacy for males and females. These include the following:
Swimming pools and gyms that provide privacy for male and female use.
Beaches, which provide areas for males and females to enjoy in privacy.
Segmentation of Muslim Travelers Based on Faith-Based Needs
Muslim travelers are not homogeneous in their adherence to the faith-based needs discussed above. In order to cater to these needs from a services perspective, service providers can look at grouping these needs into “Need to have”, Good to have” and “Nice to have”.
Need to Have
Good to Have
Water-usage Friendly Washrooms
Nice to Have
No Non-Halal Activities
Recreational Facilities and Services with Privacy