In a recent survey conducted by Singapore-based halal travel platform Have Halal Will Travel (HHWT), China emerged as the third most popular holiday destination for Muslim traveler around the world, behind Japan and Korea. But not all Chinese cities are ready to accommodate the needs of Muslim travelers, said executives at two Muslim-focused travel platforms at a recent TechNode event.
Travel expectations are rising among young Muslims, said Faeez Fadhlillah, CEO of Malaysia-based Muslim travel platform Tripfez, and HHWT co-founder Mikhail Melvin Goh. As the number of young, educated and mobile Muslims—and their income—grows, they have become the fastest-growing segment in the global travel industry.
On stage at ORIGIN, an event hosted by TechNode Global at Malaysia Tech Week 2019, the two travel experts spoke about the growth of the industry. Both Faeez and Goh believe that China will continue to be a popular destination for Muslim travelers.
‘What I want must be fulfilled’
Rising incomes and access to information about travel on social media have created a lucrative halal tourism market. Goh said that the vibrant budget airlines industry has also spurred the growth of halal travel.
The mindset has shifted, said Fadhlillah: from “what is available to me?” to “what I want must be fulfilled.”. Brands are taking notice of the increase in Muslim travelers and making efforts to better serve them.
Fadhlillah said that tourists expect the comforts of home even when traveling, giving the example of Muslim travelers in Korea eating local food secure that it’s halal-certified. Muslim travelers are also increasingly searching for a sense of meaning when traveling, Faeez said.
“There is a rise in solo Muslim travelers and all-girls trips, and this could mean that they feel safer traveling now,” added Goh.
“Communication is key. Hotels, dining places, and tourist hotspots should work on improving its communication more efficiently to eliminate the fear and knowledge gap Muslim travelers might have about the destination,” said Goh
Stakeholders are anchoring different positions within the value chain in the regular travel industry, said Goh. “Down to the infrastructure level, we see many problems with the supply side where there is no fixed position and it requires players to anchor these positions before the value chain can be more efficient,” he added.
The Muslim travel industry is fragmented across cultures, said Fadhlillah. One major challenge, he said, is that there’s no single halal standard or definition—one is free to experiment and play around.
Malaysians, Faeez said, are generally very strict with their definition of halal, and are often surprised to learn that there are other definitions outside of Malaysia. A halal-certified restaurant in Korea could serve alcohol as long as it doesn’t offer pork, he said.
Goh said that as much as brands are excited to serve this group of Muslim travelers, it starts to get confusing for them as there are many different halal standards, creating operational difficulties.