Singapore-based firm Crescentrating has launched a website catering to Muslim tourists wishing to travel abroad.
The website, HalalTrip.com, offers a global directory of hotels, airlines, and tour packages that cater to the needs of Muslims. The site also offers tour guides for foreign cities such as Beijing and Tokyo that include not only lists of popular sightseeing destinations, but also the names of halal restaurants and mosques.
“It is the world’s first fully featured travel booking website for Muslim travelers,” said Crescentrating chief executive Fazal Bahardeen.
The company added that they plan on including other features, such as Arabic and other language interfaces. Crescentrating, which runs a website that ranks hotels and other establishments on halal friendliness, also has a service that allows Muslim tourists to determine their prayer times across different time zones or even in mid-flight.
According to an interview with Dany Bolduc, Chief Operating Officer for Crescentrating, the Muslim travel market, excluding religious travel, was worth $130 billion in 2012, 12.5 percent of the total global outbound tourism market and larger than the American or Chinese markets. By 2020, Muslim travel is projected to be about $200 billion.
Despite the numbers, Muslim travel is still a niche market that has yet to be capitalized upon. Only a handful of businesses cater to those who want to travel beyond pilgrimages to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
“The Halal travel market is currently under-serviced despite its size, consisting of a handful of players with fragmented product offerings,” said Bolduc.
Countries such as Malaysia, which is the top destination for Muslim travelers, are already catching on by building “Arab cities” in Malacca to attract Middle Eastern tourists. The other top tourist destinations are Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, countries that already boast majority Muslim populations. For countries with significantly lower Muslim populations, such as the United States or Canada, a lack of prayer rooms, sex-separated environments, and food prepared in accordance to the Koran make it difficult to attract Muslim tourists.
These obstacles don’t stop other countries from trying to tap into the growing market of Muslim travel. Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan announced last month that it would double the number of worship spaces for tourists inside the terminals and also begin a service to deliver halal food to waiting lounges.