The Halal travel market is one of the youngest and most dynamic sectors in the travel industry. It is expected that the Muslim market spend on outbound travel will reach $243 billion by 2021.[i]
Muslim tourists have specific needs, which are often not met by mainstream travel companies. For example, they require halal food, they may prefer to be in an environment which is alcohol-free, to have prayer facilities, appropriate washing facilities and a family-friendly ambience. Beach holidays can present particular challenges for those who prefer to be modestly dressed in a mixed gender setting, so some Muslims may be more comfortable in an environment where this is the norm. Some Muslim women feel more relaxed in a women-only pool or beach area where they can choose to swim and sunbathe in a bikini in a private, all-female setting, if they wish.
In the UK, the Muslim population is becoming increasingly affluent, and among younger people in particular, as in every culture, there is a growing desire to travel and experience the world. HalalBooking.com recognised that there was a gap in the market for a company, which could meet the specific needs of this sector. Established in 2009 by a group of enterprising British Muslims, with significant experience at multinational blue-chip companies in the travel and technology sectors, the company now has over 160,000 customers from more than 75 different countries. In 2015, the company was awarded the ‘World’s Best Halal Travel Website’.[ii] In 2016, they moved to their global headquarters in the Thames Valley Business Park, west of London, and have employees based in a further eight countries throughout the world. The UK is their second biggest market for outbound travel (after Germany).
Their success is based on the ability to recognise the particular demands of this fast-growing market combined with the in-house technological know-how to develop innovative solutions. HalalBooking.com allows customers not only to search for hotels according to destination, but also to filter the results to show accommodation featuring the halal-friendly facilities and services, which meet their individual needs. The website features resorts, city and thermal hotels throughout the world with the choice of destinations increasing all the time. It already features hotels in major European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome and they have recently seen significant growth in interest in the sector from hotels in non-Muslim countries. Currently, their top destinations for UK travellers are Turkey, the UAE, Morocco, Spain and Indonesia.
HalalBooking.com’s CEO and co-founder, Elnur Seyidli, said: “I knew that Muslim friends and relatives were struggling to find accommodation which met their specific needs and, with my experience in technology, I was sure I could find a solution to this problem.” He explained: “We worked on a system of filtering search results for halal-friendly attributes such as availability of halal food, alcohol-free areas and the provision of women-only pools, beach or spa areas. In this way we have been able to provide much more choice as well as peace of mind for Muslim families wishing to travel abroad on holiday.”
Seyidli also highlighted a further problem, which is often experienced by Muslim families: “I realised that existing online hotel booking engines usually work based on standard rooms. That may be OK if you are a couple travelling alone, or perhaps a family of 2 adults and 2 children, but many of my friends and relatives have larger families with 3 or 4 children, both young and old, and may well be travelling in an extended group of several families booking together.”
He explained that most booking engines are not sophisticated enough to cope with this degree of complexity, which can lead to customers having an unpleasant surprise when they arrive at their destination to find that they have to pay extra costs, or that their group doesn’t fit in the rooms they have booked. This is what led HalalBooking.com to create its ‘Precise Total Family Pricing’ technology, which is unique. It prices the exact room combination chosen, taking into account the ages of all children in the party. This ensures that customers are charged accurately and will get the rooms which they have chosen and which are suitable for their group. Last year, this innovation earned HalalBooking.com a coveted ‘Islamic Economy Award’ in Dubai.[iii]
Villas are also very popular with HalalBooking.com’s customers. The luxury villas featured on the site mostly cater for larger families and all have swimming pools and sunbathing areas, which are not overlooked in any way, ensuring complete privacy.
HalalBooking.com features comprehensive independent customer reviews, which are fully verified to ensure that they come from genuine customers. Seyidli explained: “It is very important to us that our customers are given accurate information, so we made it a priority to present only reviews from those who booked through our website and actually stayed at the hotel in question. When we developed our review technology, we made sure to include negative comments as well as positive ones, to make sure that our customers get the full picture. We even have a translation tool so that our clients can see what those of different nationalities have written too.”
As with every other sector of the industry, value for money is a driving force. HalalBooking.com features a ‘Best Price Guarantee’ to ensure that customers are getting the most competitive hotel rates. “Our prices are checked regularly,” said Seyidli, “and we guarantee that they are the best available anywhere online, including direct from the hotel.”
HalalBooking.com is planning for future growth by putting in place the technical innovations necessary for featuring a much larger number of hotels on its site, thereby offering even more choice to its customers. Their forecast for 2017 is to at least double the number of customers who book accommodation through their site, compared to the previous year. They have managed to achieve this level of growth every year since 2010, and the preliminary results for January-May 2017 show that the company is on track to achieve their aim.
Notes to Editors:
[i] State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2016/17 produced by Thomson Reuters in collaboration with DinarStandard
[ii] The World Halal Travel Awards 2015 took place in Abu Dhabi
[iii] The Islamic Economy Award in Hospitality and Tourism 2016 was presented at the 3rd Global Islamic Economy Summit at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. The awards are managed independently by Thomson Reuters, audited by Deloitte, and adjudicated by a judges’ panel based on formal, established criteria.