The Halal Holiday
marketplace, launched today, hopes to make it easy for Muslims bitten by the travel bug to book holidays without compromising their principles or choices.
Halal Holiday founder Abdul Rahman Mohd Ali said the service is meant to provide better options for Muslim tourists, who often feel forced to make suboptimal choices to stay in line with their faith.
He added that their three main concerns when travelling are safety, access to halal food, and freedom to practice their faith openly.
To address this, Halal Holiday provides participating tour companies with training on identifying and supplying halal food to travellers, and preparing spaces for ablutions and prayers.
Abdul Rahman said that beyond providing halal food and setting aside time for the tourists to pray, Muslim tourism isn't that different from others.
Halal Holiday accepts non-Muslim tour agents, as long as they follow the service's Standard Operating Procedure, he said.
Though Halal Holiday is working with the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) and Persatuan Agensi Pelancongan Umrah dan Haji (Papuh), Abdul Rahman said it is not compulsory for agents to register with the marketplace in order to sell Muslim-friendly packages.
The website offers six services: foreign holidays, Malaysian holidays, Umrah, cruise getaways, hotels and airlines.
It is connected to 500 airlines and more than 600,000 hotels, while cruises are done in collaboration with Genting Cruises.
Abdul Rahman said Malaysia ranks 34th in terms of global travel spenders, with 5.4 million Malaysians planning their trips online, according to various studies.
Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) director general Datuk Seri Abd Khani Daud said the service would help Malaysia tap the massive Muslim tourist market with over one billion travellers.
"Muslim travellers are now more choosy about their holidays, and prefer choosing destinations where they would feel comfortable," he said.
ITC, an agency under the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, concentrates on developing the country as a Muslim-friendly destination, and Malaysia is already a top halal destination.
He said the agency is working on a government-backed database for hotels recognised as Muslim-friendly, but he would only be able to confirm the details later in the year.