Hotels across the Middle East are replacing traditional Western signs of luxury with others carrying Arab and Muslim touches.
Thailand meanwhile is set to entice Middle Eastern travellers with a ‘home away from home’ experience this summer by way of special Ramadan packages and related activities during the Holy Month.
And although religious sensitivities meant many Arabs were reluctant to travel during Ramadan, the Gold Coast in Australia is trying to persuade them otherwise with various add-ons to lure more Arab travelers there.
“There is a growing need for Shariah-compliant hotels, which are sought after by Arab Muslim travelers,” said Naji Morcos, director of Hodema, a Lebanese consultant company specializing in hospitality.
The new trend aims to cater to Arab travelers who spend more than US$12 billion annually on holiday travel.
A study published by MiddleEast.com indicates approximately 88 percent of Arab travelers said they would like to stay in an Islamic hotel during their holiday travel.
In Thailand, many leading hotels are offering specially prepared Iftar and Suhour services as well as regular Halal menus in their Ramadan packages.
Australia’s Gold Coast Tourism will also set up an Iftar lounge for Ramadan at the Hotel Chancellor in Surfers Paradise.
After breaking fast, Arab visitors will be able to go to the lounge to have dinner, watch Arabic TV, smoke the shisha pipe and have Turkish coffee.
Not limited to just food, the rooms also get an Islamic touch.
Gone are the mini bars and movies or TV channels that are considered haram. Instead customers would find a room conducive for praying including prayer mats, pointers to the Kaabah and a copy of the Qu’ran.
“Shariah-compliant hotels basically adhere to the same restrictions that are adopted in Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia. The only difference is that they are now popping up in countries where conventional hotels are usually allowed,” Morcos said.
Some hotels are even observing strict mixed-gender interaction policies. Segregation between men and women is practiced in Shariah-compliant hotels, with certain floors serviced by female staff are reserved exclusively for female guests.
The policy is also applied to other sensitive areas such as the bathroom, gym and pool. In Thailand, extended spa opening hours are being promoted at most of their hotels.
An all-Islamic hotel would also rely on Shariah-compliant financing for their investment operations, even allocating a portion of profits to charities to fulfill Zakah, a main tenet of Islam under which every Muslim should earmark at least 2.5 percent of any annual accrued wealth to charity.
“Shariah-compliant hotels provide a service that is detailed from the beginning to the end, from separate entrances to the individual Qurans that are placed in each room,” Morcos said.
Whether the Shariah offerings will entice the Arabs to come in droves remains to be seen, especially during Ramadan, but one thing is certain, they are changing the traditional hotel landscape as we know it.
Cover picture of Jawhara Hotel’s Sky View Restaurant in Dubai. Like them on Facebook.