The Muslim traveler is an important part of the travel industry, which until recently has not been taken seriously. Most Muslims have had to take care of their requirements or compromise on certain aspects of their holiday needs in order to vacation in different parts of the world. Some even stuck to holidaying in their own country or would travel to a Muslim country where their needs would be met. The main requirement of a Muslim traveler would include availability of halal food in the hotel or halal restaurants located close by, prayer facilities, a family friendly environment and separate leisure facilities for men and women. For those traveling during Ramadan, the availability of Muslim-friendly facilities would be of utmost importance; mainly halal meals provided at the required times and prayer facilities. However not many hotel chains and restaurants have realized the large market they are missing out on when they don’t provide these facilities.
In 2012 Muslim travelers spent over US$ 120 billion on travel which is about 12% of the global travel expenditure and it was twice the amount spent by Chinese travelers. Studies have shown that by 2020 this is said to grow to be a US$ 200 billion market. Most destinations are only now realizing the purchasing power of the Muslim consumer and now seeking assistance from companies that specialize in this aspect. Crescentrating is a company that provides a wide range of consultancy services to the Muslim travel industry. It is a Singaporean company, and as the pioneers in this field they have the experience and the knowledge to help countries and travel services with anything related to the Muslim travel industry. Some of the services provided by Crescentrating include, its rating system: where countries are rated on its Muslim-friendly facilities, and its consultancy services: where the company provides specialized services to the governments and travel businesses of various countries. The company is even planning on launching webinars for this purpose. The Muslim travel segment has grown in importance even more with the drop in European travelers. Most countries have enlisted the help of Crescentrating to help them target the Muslim segment and are having seminars, workshops and training camps to educate their travel related businesses. There is a huge opportunity for countries to grab a large portion of the Muslim tourism trade; the fastest growing segment in the travel market, just by providing Muslim-friendly facilities and including them in their marketing plan.
Studies show that 70% of travel expenditure in 2012 came from Muslim travelers in Southeast Asia, Middle East and Europe including countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia, Germany, Russia, Egypt, France and UK just to name a few. This is a diverse market that has the same strongly shared values such as being of the same faith as well as having similar dietary and lifestyle requirements. The top destination for this segment has been Muslim majority countries such as Malaysia, Turkey and UAE where the lifestyle choices of Muslims are generally met. While countries such as Singapore, Russia, China, Australia, Japan and Thailand; with a minority Muslim population are also popular with this segment as they have introduced better facilities for Muslim travelers.
Just like their counterparts, Muslims too value friendly airlines, comfortable seating, centrally located hotels with clean rooms and good service. Additional to this, what Muslim travelers also find important include; halal food, prayer facilities and information on nearby mosques, wudhu friendly washrooms, Ramadan facilities, separate recreational areas and family friendly environments. Countries that do not cater to this segment will definitely lose out; with the Muslim population growing at a very rapid rate and comprising of a young population that wants to travel around the world and explore other countries, yet not wanting to compromise on their lifestyle and halal needs.
Therefore, with many countries already targeting this sector, countries that do not start the process of adding halal friendly facilities in their country and the marketing of these facilities to draw this large segment of travelers will be at a disadvantage in the future.