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Demand for Shariah-compliant hotels rising

| 09/03/2009 | Reply




Demand for Shariah-compliant hotels rising 

Rayhaan Hotels and Resorts brand launched by Rotana is an alcohol-free property. (SUPPLIED)

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Staff Writer
 on Sunday, March 08, 2009

The
concept of Shariah-compliant hotels, which was announced a couple of
years ago, has yet to catch on, especially in the four- and five-star
categories, said a senior hotel executive.

Dr Barbara Urasch,
Vice-President, Venatol, a hotel management firm that is planning
Shariah-compliant hotels in Europe, said: “Many of the hotel just do
not serve alcohol, they are not Shariah-compliant. There is a demand
for Shariah-compliant four- and five-star hotels not just in the region
but worldwide. Currently, there are no such hotels in this category.”

The
popular misconception in the absence of standardisation or
certification is that a hotel that does not serve alcoholic beverages
and serves halal food is a Shariah-compliant hotel.

John
Podaris, Associate Director, TRI Hospitality Consulting, told Emirates
Business: “It is more than just not serving beverages and non-halal
food that makes a hotel Shariah, though of course these are two very
important aspects of being Shariah-compliant. If the hotel has to be
Shariah-complaint then the concept should be implemented right through.
The hotel must have separate entrances for women, as well as women only
function rooms. The rooms must be designed for prayers and ablution”

Hotel
industry sources said that for hotel to be Shariah-complaint, it should
not serve alcohol, serve halal food, reflect Shariah values, follow the
principle of zakat and if possible separate function rooms for men and
women, separate health club and fitness facilities for men and women.

Talking
about demand, Dr Urasch said: “According to the World Tourism
Organisation, the Gulf travellers spend more than Dh44 billion on
annual leisure travel. Of this, travellers from UAE spend Dh18bn
visiting other countries every year. There is need for
Shariah-compliant hotels as Muslim travellers makes up 10 per cent of
the world tourism market and the number is increasing.

Podaris
said: “Unlike other situation where the concept has to chase funds,
Shariah-compliant funds were already available and the concept evolved
from there.”

The two drivers for the concept are that the money is legal and the property owners are devout Muslims.

A
senior industry executive said hotels following the principles of
Shariah have based the idea on religious point of view and have evolved
as a lifestyle option, which is family oriented and healthy living.

Podaris
said: “The concept is interesting but the market for it has to be
identified. Hotels should be more creative and look beyond the Muslim
market to use the healthy lifestyle platform.”

He said: “First
there are the traditional Muslim travellers, who, when travelling with
family, are more comfortable staying in a hotel that does not have a
bar and that serves halal food. The other category, which would opt for
a hotel following the principles of Shariah, is business travellers
from traditional cultures’

These business travellers especially
from countries like Indonesia and Thailand prefer a hotel that does not
have a bar and serves halal food.

Tamani Hotel Marina, the
flagship hotel of Tamani Hotels and Resorts, which is a
Shariah-compliant hotel has been averaging over 70 per cent occupancy
for the first two months of 2009. The hotel has reported 100 per cent
occupancy for 11 days during this period, according to Roddy Gordon,
Vice-President Sales and Marketing, Tamani Hotels and Resorts.

Gordon said that for a week the hotel reported occupancies of 95 per cent.

The
guests in the hotel during this period were a mix of business visitors
and leisure travel from GCC markets and Eastern Europe.
That the
concept is yet to catch on is evident from the fact that there are also
very few hotels in the four- and five-star category following the
principles of Shariah.

Hotel industry sources said: “In most
cases it does not make commercial sense, especially if it is an airport
or CBD (central business district) hotel.”

He said that liquor
in hotels is expensive and hotels make a huge profit from their food
and beverage business. “The profit from food and beverage is anything
between 30 and 33 per cent.

However, not every one agrees that
the beverage is such a big issue. Guy Wilkinson, General Manager,
Viability Management Consultants, said that 75 per cent of all hotels
in Gulf, especially in the three-star category do not serve alcohol and
have shown healthy occupancies.

Amal Harb, Associate
Vice-President Marketing and Communications, Rotana Hotel Management,
said that the company’s newly launched alcohol-free brand Rayhaan
Hotels and Resorts by Rotana is a Shariah compliant. This brand was
launched in response to the demands.

She said: “In this
ever-changing world, some of our guests seek to reflect their values in
their choice of accommodation. In respecting the needs of our guests we
have introduced an alcohol-free option within Rotana’s hotel and resort
portfolio. Our new product brand, Rayhaan, respects the beliefs and
culture of our guests while fostering the image of an Arabia in today’s
world.”

Many of the international chains are not very gung-ho
about the concept, as it would be at variance with the other brands in
their portfolio, a hospitality consultant said. “If we advertise this
hotel as a healthy lifestyle would it mean that the other brands are
unhealthy,” a hospitality industry source said.

In such a case,
international hotel management companies would have to create a new
brand, which they are not yet willing to do as the concept is still in
its nascent stage. A consultant said: “At the end of the day, when a
guest walks into a Hilton or a Sheraton, he knows that he can get a
drink, which is often the deciding factor.”

Category: Middle East & Africa, Travel & Hospitality

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