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Islamic Lifestyle

Muslim-friendly travel is the headline act for CrescentRating’s solo debut

SINGAPORE - After years of sharing the stage at global conferences Muslim-friendly travel pioneer CrescentRating is going solo with its very own Halal in Travel event.

Founder and CEO Fazal Bahardeen told Salaam Gateway it was always the company’s intention to build its own event platform.

“We were already contemplating to do it at the end of last year. At the beginning of this year we decided to take the plunge and go ahead with it,” said Fazal. The investment needed to hold a fully-online conference is a lot lower that in-person events, he added.

The 13-year-old CrescentRating has in recent years been a participant at global events such as ITB Asia as it solidified its position as a leading authority in Muslim-friendly travel. It is now writing its own story and pushing Muslim-friendly travel as the main headline.

The three-day conference that opens July 13 will host international speakers covering a wide range of concerns, including experiences and activities, alternative payments post-pandemic, women in travel, recovery for hospitality businesses, travel and the humanitarian sector, cybersecurity in the age of COVID, and marketing to Muslim travellers in the new normal.

“I think we have covered quite a bit,” said Fazal.

“One area we wanted to cover but did not manage to is the ‘Future of airports post-pandemic’. We tried to cover as much as possible, but I am sure there are probably other areas as well that we may have overlooked.”

There are also dedicated sessions in languages other than English, starting with Malay, Uzbek and Japanese, and the company is exploring the possibility of adding three or four others, said Fazal. They’ve been included to push awareness deeper in many markets, he added.

“We embarked on an attempt to work with some partners who could help us with putting together different language panels. The language selection was purely due to the people that we knew in these markets who could help us with this,” said the CrescentRating CEO.

The event comes at a time when the travel industry is still largely on its knees as the coronavirus continues to keep most borders shut to mass leisure travel, including in CrescentRating’s home base of Singapore.

The company a year ago forecasted that a “plausible scenario” for Southeast Asia’s travel sector would be market recovery to 71% of 2019 levels by mid-2022 and the “pessimistic scenario” would see only 31% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by the end of next year.  

But the pandemic has dragged on for Southeast Asia’s biggest economy Indonesia, Malaysia is back in lockdown, and the Islamic segment in particular is severely hit by yet another haj in Saudi Arabia closed to foreign pilgrims.

On Monday (June 28) the International Air Transport Association forecasted global air travel to return to pre-pandemic levels by around end-2023.

One of the reasons CrescentRating wanted to hold its inaugural Halal in Travel event is to give some hope for the travel sector, said Fazal. “As the travel industry has been battered by the pandemic and as we look forward to its  re-opening, we believe the industry should continue to look at the Muslim-friendly segment as a key market,” he said.

“This, we thought is also a good time to bring together as many players as possible who are involved in this segment to discuss challenges and opportunities on one platform.”  

Registration for the event is free but slots are numbered because of the tech limitation of the conference platform.

Improving on the tech and introducing other features, such as a networking tool or awards, are what CrescentRating will be exploring as it looks to make its Halal in Travel Summit an annual event.

“It’s a bit early to say what form it will be [after this year]. It could possibly be a hybrid format, but definitely the online element is here to stay,” said Fazal.

“We definitely want this platform to become the primary platform for the industry to discuss the Muslim travel segment.”

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