OPINION

Image-Building in the Muslim Hospitality Industry

There is a sudden realization among key developers that hotels and hospitality in the Middle East can easily absorb a huge number of properties and tour destinations purely based on Islamic culture. These new brands will deliver all the traditional values and customs to accommodate familiar authentic experiences for Muslims traveling alone or with their families. To be successful, properties must address how Muslims want to be treated and how their needs are met.

However, the real challenge lies in providing an environment that is rich enough to allow the comfort and luxury of Western hotels, while setting a new global standard for balancing those aspects with the conservative tastes and the standards of etiquette so highly cherished by Muslims.

The Entire Experience

The thought of creating hospitality concepts based on specific cultural lines really isn’t new. Indeed, the Western concept of hospitality evolved from the inns, pubs and taverns of Europe. The room design and overall experience incorporates many of the elements of those early stopping points — a bathroom sink, bathtub, Western food, liquor and music, for example.

Some Western hotels appeal to their Muslim clientele with such touches as a sign on the ceiling pointing out Mecca’s direction, a prayer rug, a bidet or an arch — while a mini-bar remains hidden in the furniture. Conveniently available as the only possible options, these rooms are popular and have worked very well.

Nevertheless, the western franchises must prepare themselves to become more deeply knowledgeable about Islamic issues, instead of merely supplying a few cosmetic accessories.

Demand Growing

The Middle East is in need of Islamic hotel brands that allow Muslims absorbed in their culture and the practice of Islam to be fully at ease in their surroundings — places that provide Islamic family hospitality and Islamic recreation. Creating such a concept would demand a deep understanding of themes and ambiance, architecture, design and daily routines.

The upside potential for Muslim-branded hospitality is growing every day as the Middle East develops and its residents travel in increasing numbers.

We now live in an easily accessible world, where possibilities are endless — and the West does not hold a monopoly on business ideas, new concepts or innovation. Outside the G8, with the exception of space missions, life-saving technologies and piles of WMDs, almost the collective innovation of the entire world has been replicated in Asia at a dramatically increased rate. Muslims have begun to redefine their identity, manage their affairs and establish their own standards. The Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) has been established to showcase this unification of Muslims.

For Professionals Only

This image-building is a very serious business, not to be confused with general, logo-driven advertising. This hospitality game is for the intellectually secure and religiously mature, and it demands a very precise understanding of the differences between Muslims of various regions, groups and practices. A global-level understanding of world-class image creation and sustained delivery of concepts is needed to pull off this kind of endeavor.

Islamic hotel branding, family travel and Muslim tourism will soon become new phenomena in the booming Gulf Countries, and once a few properties are established, their traffic and popularity will erupt. The race among hotels to quickly fill this void and take the lead has now begun. On your marks.


Naseem Javed is recognized as a world authority on Corporate Image and Global Cyber-Branding. Author of Naming for Power, he introduced The Laws of Corporate Naming in the 80s and also foundedABC Namebank, a consultancy established in New York and Toronto a quarter century ago. Currently, he is on a lecture tour in Asia and can be reached at[email protected].


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