Affluent Muslim travellers, who encounter a lack of religiously sensitive hospitality services, should find the website www.crescentrating.com quite handy. It is the brainchild of former telecoms executive Fazal Bahardeen.
In an interview with wire service AFP, the entrepreneur revealed that during his jet-setting days, he was frustrated to find many hotels did not have halal-certified restaurants, lacked markers – known as quiblat – in guestrooms pointing to Mecca for prayers and generally, did not respond to the special needs of Muslim guests.
Bahardeen quit his job to set up Crescentrating, perhaps, currently the only company dedicated to rating hotels for their friendliness to Muslim travellers. Its portal www.crescentrating.com not only provides bookings but promotes halal tours as well.
Fahardeen’s hotel grading system takes into consideration the availability of halal food as well as prayer rooms and mats as well as the non-availability of forbidden items like alcohol and adult TV channels. He uses a scale of one to seven.
A rating of one is given to a hotel with no such facilities but whose employees are trained to answer questions from Muslim guests. It receives a two if it can provide a list of halal-certified restaurants in its vicinity even if it does not have one on the premises. The highest scores are reserved for those establishments that are free of alcohol, discos and TV channels unsuitable for families and children.
In the future, Crecentrating intends to add halal-friendly ratings on theme parks, convention centres, cruise ships, shopping malls and hospitals used by medical tourists.
Halal travel, fuelled by markets such as Indonesia, China and the Middle East, is expected to be worth US$100 billion annually within two years, according to Fazal. Other have also started spotting the trend. Tourism Australia recently produced a guide to halal eateries, while restaurants and resorts in Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have been observed to be catering increasingly to Muslim visitors, providing halal menus and prayer rooms. Even some airports have caught on providing similar facilities such as prayer room.
Margie T Logarta