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Understanding the Faith-Based Service Needs and Challenges Faced by Muslim Women Travelers

Dec 2019

Updated in 2019, the CrescentRating Faith-Based Service Needs model is a framework that identifies the key needs of Muslim Travelers. These needs are guided by their faith and influence their travel consumption behavior. They can be categorized into Need to Have, Good to Have and Nice to Have, with specific service areas such as Halal food or water friendly washrooms falling into these specific categories based on their level of importance.

While this model is relevant to all Muslim travelers, certain Muslim traveler segments will have unique preferences within each service area. The Mastercard-CrescentRating Muslim Women in Travel 2019 report looked at the unique preferences and challenges of Muslim women travelers within each service category.

NEED TO HAVE SERVICES

HALAL FOOD

Halal food is regarded as the most important service for Muslim women travelers with 94% indicating it as important to them. Acceptability of the different levels of halal food assurance varies. Vegetarian options are viewed as the next most important (62%) followed by healthy options (50%).

Specific Challenges to Muslim Women Travelers

Just like general women travelers, Muslim women travelers are also increasingly seeking healthier halal options. Women who are traveling with children also mentioned seeking halal children meals.

PRAYER FACILITIES

Muslims are required to perform the five daily prayers. When traveling, some combine it to three prayers. Prayers can be performed anywhere that is clean and not necessarily in a mosque. Prior to performing a prayer, Muslims are required to take wudhu (ablution) using water.

Specific Challenges to Muslim Women Travelers

A common challenge is the absence of women prayer areas at prayer rooms and mosques where these facilities are restricted to only men. 86% of Muslim women travelers indicated women prayer areas as important. This is followed by women prayer garments (46%).

WATER-FRIENDLY WASHROOMS

Water plays a key role in purity and cleanliness - both of which are core aspects of the faith. Muslims require water to clean themselves after using the toilet or to take wudhu. It is discomforting for Muslim travelers where the setup for water use is unavailable. Washrooms with bidets and/or hand sprays are seen as the most important (91%) followed by cleanliness of wudhu facilities (90%). Others include availability of private wudhu areas for women (84%) and availability of wudhu friendly washrooms (79%).

Specific Challenges to Muslim Women Travelers

Many respondents have mentioned that there are often no washing areas for women to perform wudhu (ablution) in privacy. Some have also commented that some of these washing facilities are unclean.

NO ISLAMOPHOBIA

With rising Islamophobic sentiments in some regions, safety has become a primary concern for Muslim travelers. They require their safety and security guaranteed in the destination they are traveling to. Muslim women travelers indicated a safe travel climate as the most important (97%) followed by no hijab or niqab ban (84%).

Specific Challenges to Muslim Women Travelers

Due to their identity, Muslim women travelers may face dress code restrictions such as not being allowed to wear hijab or niqab. They are also vulnerable to Islamophobic insults or hate crimes being visibly Muslim in their appearances.

GOOD TO HAVE SERVICES

SOCIAL CAUSES

A key tenet of the Islamic faith is social justice. This includes being mindful and having empathy towards self, others and the environment. Social causes include the ability to improve local living conditions, various green initiatives to protect the environment and eco-friendly tourism practices. Muslim women travelers indicated eco-friendly practices as good to have (73%) followed by volunteer groups (62%).

RAMADAN SERVICES

While Muslims do not usually travel in the period of Ramadan, there are an increasing number who take holidays during Ramadan. There are also those who travel in Ramadan for business. Availability of suhoor and iftar arrangements at hotel restaurants are regarded as good to have. It would be especially helpful if the option to provide these meals as part of room service was available. Suhoor and iftar arrangements at restaurants are viewed as good to have (64%) followed by suhoor and iftar room service (58%).

 MUSLIM EXPERIENCES

Muslim experiences that are unique to the destination and allow Muslim travelers to connect with their Muslim identity and heritage is regarded as good to have. Islamic heritage tours are regarded as good to have (77%) followed by interaction with local Muslim communities (69%).

NICE TO HAVE SERVICES

RECREATIONAL SPACES WITH PRIVACY

A sub-segment of Muslim travelers look for recreational spaces that provide privacy for males and females. These include swimming pools, gyms, beaches, spas, beauty salons and women-only floors in hotels.

Specific Challenges to Muslim Women Travelers

For some Muslim women travelers, having privacy is of utmost importance when using facilities such as spas, beauty and hair salons with 79% indicating it as most important. Swimming pools or dedicated swimming hours for women are regarded as the second most important facility (61%) as not all Muslim women are comfortable swimming in a mixed setting. Some do not mind swimming in a mixed setting but find it challenging to find facilities that allow them to wear burkini.

NO NON-HALAL SERVICES

Muslims consider some activities to be non-halal such as drinking of alcohol, gambling and discotheques. 36% of Muslim women travelers prefer facilities with no non-halal services. Thus, it is important for services to center on a family-friendly environment

Click here to download the full report

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