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Millennials are shaking up the travel industry with their penchant for authentic, unique experiences and Muslims are no exception to this rule. The size of the Halal travel industry is expected to skyrocket with more millennials entering the workforce and pocketing greater disposable incomes.

That’s one of the key takeaways of “Halal Travel Frontier 2018”, an industry report published by Crescent Rating in conjunction with MasterCard.

Crescent Rating, which first started analyzing the Muslim travel market in 2008, says that there were an estimated 126 million Muslim travelers in 2016. The number is expected to grow by nearly 30% in the next four years, settling on 156 million travelers in 2020.

In 2015, Crescent Rating estimated total purchases by Muslim travelers to be roughly US$145 billion. This factors in expenditure on Halal food, hotels, excursions & experiences, and shopping. The number is expected to rise to a colossal US$300 billion by 2026 – more than doubling in volume in a little over a decade.

A large chunk of this growth is fueled by millennial Muslim travelers in the fast-growing economies of Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, and Gulf countries. 60% of the population in Muslim majority countries is currently under the age of 30 – a stark contrast to the global average, which is 11%.

It’s a demographic that players in the travel & tourism space simply cannot afford to ignore anymore.

“Brands would also need to increase their level of empathy and find new ways to better connect with Muslim travelers,” explains Fazal Behardeen, CEO of Crescent Rating. “This will be key in order to both appeal and empower their Muslim travelers.”

What are Muslim millennials looking for?

One of the seminal insights proffered by Crescent Rating is the emergence of the Muslim female travel segment. This particular demographic is gradually becoming a force in its own right with females opting to travel with their friends & family in small to medium-sized groups.

The key purchasing factors for such consumers are “specialized travel products and lifestyle services.” Destinations looking to attract female Muslim travelers are advised to engender a safe and accessible environment that respects the cultural and religious sensitivities at play.

South Africa and Indonesia are tipped to be major travel destinations for Muslims, but Asia as a whole is expected to eat up the largest chunk. The Indonesian government itself has set up an ambitious target of attracting 5 million Halal travelers in 2019, more than double the 2 million that visited in 2016. Other popular destinations are Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore.

Sporting events in Asia such as the Winter Olympics in South Korea this year as well as the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020 are also expected to court significant numbers of travelers from Muslim-majority countries.

Outbound travel markets. Photo credit: Crescent Rating

The potential is undeniable. How can brands cash in?

Muslim travelers tend to weigh in specific factors before reaching a firm decision on a travel destination, according to Crescent Rating. There should be facilities that allow for accessible prayer areas, restaurants & cafes serving certified Halal food, and toilets with provision for ablution. Most travelers will flock to social media or do extensive research on the web prior to embarking on their journey.

At the same time, governments also have an opportunity to help local businesses by offering prayer facilities and Halal food in public locations like airports, railway stations, and places of interest. Taiwan is cited as an example of a country actively working to meet this demand.

Like millennials around the world, Muslim travelers will likely start their buyer’s journey on the web by searching for travel content but most mainstream sites – Booking.com and Agoda, for example – don’t have dedicated listings for Halal-friendly establishments or significant insights on where Muslims might feel comfortable.

“We find that Muslim millennial travelers are like most millennial travelers apart from their uncompromising faith-based needs,” explains Raudha Zaini, marketing manager at Halal Trip, a B2C travel portal for Muslims. “They seek what we call the 3As when they travel – Authentic Experience, Affordable Facilities and Accessible Network – all within the radius of their faith requirements.”

According to the Pew Research Center, the Muslim demographic around the world is expected to grow twice as fast as the overall world population between 2015 to 2060, reaching a projected 3 billion individuals. In terms of consumer spending alone, the global Islamic economy generated US$1.9 trillion in food and lifestyle expenditure in 2015 with projections that it’ll grow significantly to US$3 trillion by 2021.

For brands looking to appeal to a gargantuan demographic hiding in plain sight, they’ll have to focus on crafting their message and developing empathy. That’s key if they’re looking to connect with young Muslims on a personal level. One thing for sure is that the market will continue to expand at a ferocious rate.

So far the rate of adoption has been slow, at best. UK-based retailer Marks & Spencer launched a burkini swimwear collection in 2016 to a spurt of criticism. Despite dissenting voices, the line completely sold out showing there’s real demand.

Other examples are the 2017 launch of the four-star Al-Meroz hotel in Bangkok, the first Halal hotel in Thailand as well as Expedia’s US$350 million in Indonesian online travel platform Traveloka the same year.

But these are tepid responses to a market valued at hundreds of billions. Larger brands can, and should step up to match smaller incumbents like Indonesian halal cosmetics company Wardah, India’s IbaHalalCare, and California-based AmaraCosmetics.

Ramadan, the time of year when Muslims around the world fast from dawn to dusk, is only six weeks away. The holy month is not only for reflection and prayer through the Islamic world but surprisingly also one of the busiest shopping seasons for businesses.

Online sales and web traffic have been especially profound for online businesses with a rise of 77% and 110%, respectively, during Ramadan last year. With approximately 240 million Muslims in Southeast Asia, the upcoming holy month means more eating, praying and shopping.

But what are observers of this religious festival shopping for? When and where can businesses reach them? Facebook has shared a presentation that contains insights about users during Ramadan. Here’s what to keep in mind:

Shopping peaks before, during and after Ramadan

Ramadan falls on May 27 to June 25 2017, however, sales increase both pre- and post-Ramadan offering businesses a period of nearly three months to capture the attention of potential buyers.

According to Facebook, the pre-Ramadan phase this year falls from April until May 26 followed by the holy Ramadan month, while the post-Ramadan phase falls from June 26 to July 31.

Pre-Ramadan

People start browsing to discover products as early as April, but shopping peaks in the Ramadan month, by as much as 27% compared to the season average in 2016.

Women especially are looking for tips to decorate the home, create a new dish or buy a dress, so it’s best to reach them through online campaigns when they begin prepping for the celebrations.

The pre-Ramadan period is good for offering things like household cleaning supplies as people embrace “purity” and “cleanliness” preparing to welcome Ramadan. The week before Ramadan, people will stock up on food and beverages.

Mobile is the observer’s best friend

  • 60% of Indonesians use the mobile during this season to connect with family and friends. Family, food and the home dominate Facebook conversations.
  • 86% of Indonesians access the internet via the mobile.
  • 96 million people access Facebook monthly on mobile making the platform a smart marketing channel.  
  • More service-based apps are downloaded during and post-Ramadan for a stress-free (28% increase in installs in June, 26% in July).

The Ramadan shopper

The focus is on women during this time of year as more activities become stressful in Ramadan. They include:

  • Keeping a tidy home (30.6%)
  • Cooking (30.4%)
  • Dressing well (27.9%)
  • Entertaining family/friends (19.5%)
  • Being a parent (14.9%)

And because they tend to miss out on relaxing (29%), watching TV shows (20%) and spending time with family/friends (16%), they turn to the mobile to post on Facebook and 50% look for inspiration during Ramadan.

Women namely discuss family, food and beverage and the household in Facebook conversations. The most popular Instagram hashtags during Ramadan include:

  • Hijab, Hijabers, Hijab fashion
  • Fashion
  • Dress
  • Kemeja (shirt)
  • Bajuanak (children’s clothes)
  • Holiday (more local destinations than global)

The most popular shopping topics among women:

  • Clothing – particularly for new clothes for Eid/Lebaran
  • Electronics – TV, Playstation and mobile phones (particularly Samsung)
  • Gifting and promotions

How to reach this demographic? Facebook has shared a handy table for setting up ad campaigns and the topics/keywords to focus on to provide convenience to observers:

Other tips to reach more Ramadan browsers

eIQ case study a few years back found that web traffic peaks in the early hours of the day so boosting online promotions and offers between 3AM to 6AM will be more effective than scheduling those for later in the day.

Digital marketing is a good way to send your brand message to customers during this period, especially if it’s optimized for the mobile device. Businesses also need to be aware that if they are connecting to their audience during this religious time, content should be appropriate and sensitive while providing as much convenience as possible.

  • Inspire with best Ramadan deals: tips for decorating the home, healthy recipes, stylish dresses
  • Begin campaigns early: Start as soon as April (now!) before it gets to Ramadan crunch time.
  • Be a problem solver: Women are stressed about cleaning, cooking and dressing well. Be creative, bundle cleaning supplies with home delivery and curated fashion solutions.

Be it marketing through Facebook, email or any other channel, this is a helpful checklist for optimal marketing efficacy:


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