Muslim travelers around the world represent a major marketing opportunity, and are an important segment in the travel, hospitality and tourism industry. With Muslim travelers spending over $120 billion on outbound travel in 2012, and its expected growth in the coming years, many countries are seeing the potential for attracting this segment of travelers. To make a destination Muslim-friendly, countries need to first educate the various business establishments that deal with the travel and tourism industry about the specific needs of these travelers. Many countries are enlisting the help of Crescentrating; a company that provides Halal-friendly travel consultancy services and pioneers in this field. Crescentrating also conducts workshops in order to evaluate the market and identify the consumer needs so that they can help these countries and businesses provide a better service and attract more tourists from this segment of travelers.
The basic requirements which need to be met to make a destination Muslim friendly would be mainly the availability of halal food. Other requirements include; prayer facilities, separate leisure facilities, services provided during Ramadan, and the level of non-halal activities in the hotel. The degree to which these needs are met would be a deciding factor on the level of friendliness the country or hotel is for Muslims. Hotels wanting to cater to Muslim travelers need to provide Muslim-friendly facilities which would also require them to train their staff. All staff need to be trained; including the restaurant staff, kitchen staff, reception and front desk staff so that they are equipped to deal with any requirement or to answer any question posed by a Muslim guest.
Training is primarily needed for those dealing with customer service, as they are constantly dealing with guests on a face to face basis. Workshops need to be held to educate and prepare front desk and reception staff to deal with the specific needs of Muslim guests. Being able to help Muslim guests by answering queries regarding prayer times, qibla direction, providing a list of mosques located close by, and names of restaurants where guests will be able to find halal food if the hotel does not have a halal restaurant or does not serve halal food in their restaurants; should also be of part of their job description.
The restaurant and kitchen staff would however need the most training since they deal directly with the preparation of the food. Halal dishes served in hotels belong to two different categories. One category is where the whole restaurant is halal and is served from a halal kitchen. The other category is where a non-halal restaurant is served from a halal certified kitchen to meet the Muslim guests’ dietary requirements. In a halal restaurant the training required would not be as extensive as in a non halal restaurant as all produce would be halal and there would not be any fear of contamination with non-halal items of food. However, staff do need to be taught what halal means and the wait staff need to be trained to answer any queries posed by a Muslim guest. In the second category of restaurants where a non-halal restaurant serves halal food from a halal certified kitchen; staff would need more extensive training; as cross contamination can take place if staff are not trained and educated on the process of storing halal and haram food items separately. Staff also need to be aware that there should be separate utensils and cutlery in the restaurant for Muslim guests to use. Having at least one Muslim employee would go a long way in making guests comfortable with eating at a restaurant like this.
Hotels expecting to boost the number of Muslims guests will have to carry out special training camps and conduct workshops in order to train staff to understand and serve Muslim travelers as required. Another option would be to attend training sessions held by Crescentrating, where the staff would be trained to cater to the needs of the Muslim guests. Hotels and travel organizations should contact Crescentrating if they need help in training and educating their employees in serving Muslim travelers.