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Muslim Travelers and the Hospitality Industry

Collaborating with the goal of enlightening hoteliers on the growth of Muslim tourists, and the facilities that are needed to attract this specific market segment, the workshop highlighted staggering statistics, techniques to attract Muslim vacationers, the importance of Halal certification and the method in which certification can be obtained. Representatives from the hospitality industry's best were present, including agents from Aitken Spence Hotels, Amaya Resorts and Keells Resorts being among them.

Fazal Bahardeen, CEO of Crescentrating, began the workshop with a presentation on the impact Muslim travelers have on the hospitality industry. He identified the growth of the Muslim market, the outbound annual travel percentage of the Middle East, and the tourism expenditure of Muslim travelers within the past few years as well as the expected increase for the coming years. Based on statistics published by the UNWTO, Fazal has estimated that Muslim travelers will amount to 15% of the tourism expenditure by 2020 resulting in Muslim travelers becoming a 225 billion dollar market segment. Crescentrating, a Singapore based company, fits into the equation as a rating system for establishments with any level of Halal-friendly services and facilities. This gives establishments a chance to highlight their services to Muslim clientele worldwide while giving Halal-conscious consumers a chance to make educated choices while traveling.

The ACJU, an acronym for the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, is the Halal certifying body of Sri Lanka. Their Halal Certification Committee, which launched in 2000, is one of ten subcommittees that cover a range of interests including education, publication and banking. Rayees Mufti, one of the speakers at the workshop, is a member of the ACJU Halal Certification Committee. He introduced participants to ACJU's "Farm to Fork" concept which covers a product from the abattoir to the point of consumption. Participants of the workshop got a clear understanding of "eating Halal" as they discovered that using Halal meats is not the only quality assessed during the certification process.

Munshif Hussain, the Facilitator of Systems and Processes at the ACJU, further clarified the steps of the certification process: from inquiry and submission to verification and certification. Clearly stating that the ACJU itself is undergoing a learning process, he welcomes the expertise of the participating hoteliers to make suggestions for improvement. Munshif shared his goal of simplifying the process for establishments to get Halal certification, which was met with a positive response.

The workshop concluded with a Q&A session which raised some unique topics:
What actions are taken against those who use the "Halal certified" logo inappropriately?
The ACJU clearly stated their stance on being non-confrontational. Warnings are issued verbally, than with a written statement and after a certain period of time, legal action is taken.

Can a kitchen, not an entire restaurant, be certified?
"Yes, a kitchen can be certified rather than the entire restaurant, as long as the kitchen ensures absolutely no contact with non-Halal items. Even wines must be listed on a separate menu", said Munshif Hussain, ACJU representative.

What is the approximate time period from inquiry to certification?
The ACJU representatives were a bit hesitant to state an actual time frame, but gave an explanation as to why. Each case that applies for Halal registration is different from one other, so the time frame is based on each unique application, understandably so.

Attendees were given the opportunity to clear any misguided information they had previously received and the workshop wrapped up satisfyingly for all present.

The Hotel Workshop was organized by Crescentrating and Utopia Vacations and was a delight for hoteliers looking to expand their establishments by catering to the Muslim travel segment. Identifying the positive transformation a hotel can undergo, by applying facilities to cater to the developing Muslim market while still maintaining the services necessary for general clientele, provided the hoteliers with the information necessary on taking the next step for further financial growth.

Read coverage by DailyFT.

Read coverage by Lanka Business Report.