Tripfez expands Salam Standards further into industry, meeting Muslim travel demands
By Anushia Kandasivam January 25, 2017
- Information and criteria for hotels to become Muslim friendly
- Meeting travellers’ individual needs
EARLY last year, Muslim-focused online travel agency and hotel review platform Tripfez raised US$750,000 in a seed round led by Gobi Partners and the Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (ADIF).
In an interview with Digital News Asia, Faeez Fadhlillah, co-founder and CEO of Lagisatu Travel Sdn Bhd, which operates Tripfez, said that the investment will be used to expand its offerings, enhance market efforts, upgrade technological capabilities and hire more people.
Since then, Tripfez has indeed expanded further into Southeast Asia, grown its team and developed its Salam Standard certification into an application programming interface (API) for its partners.
Tripfez’s Salam Standard is a hospitality standard dedicated to making hotels more Muslim friendly through information and training. The standard attests hotels’ compliance to requirements that enhance the overall experience of Muslim travellers.
Faeez explains that the Salam Standard both evaluates the services and facilities already available at hotels as well as advises hotels how they can improve their offerings to be more Muslim-friendly and attain higher level of certification.
Some of the criteria Salam Standard looks at include whether prayer carpets and the Qibla direction is available or can be obtained, if a list of halal restaurants in the hotel’s vicinity is available and if the hotel offers halal-certified food. The hotels are categorised under Bronze, Silver of Gold Standards depending on what and how many criteria are met.
“Honestly, not all hotels will satisfy all the criteria all of the time,” says Faeez. He explains that while it is easy and quite expected for travellers to find Muslim-friendly hotels in Malaysian and Indonesia, there are a few hotels in surprising destinations – such as Russia – that have met Salam Standard criteria.
“It’s quite exciting how the industry is moving towards supporting individual needs. We’re just happy to support it by centralising all the information,” he says.
Tripfez’s recent technology upgrade with the API means that Salam Standard information is available on Tripfez.com, making searching for Muslim-friendly hotels that meet individual travellers’ requirements more efficient and convenient.
This API will soon be available on other hotel booking websites besides Tripfez. According to Faeez, Tripfez is not concerned about directing traffic away from the website and would rather focus on developing the entire Muslim travel industry.
What Tripfez does get out of this is that with more companies using the API, it will have access to a huge pool of data with which it can calculate and evaluate market trends.
A growth market
What Tripfez has done is identify a problem that no-one else could put a finger on, and then solve it. This is the reason behind the industry’s overwhelmingly positive reception to the standard and, by extension, the Muslim travel market. It is also why hotels are joining the Salam Standard programme in droves and Tripfez is able to expand the API offering outside its own website.
“There are certain days when we have 500 to 700 hotels coming on board,” reveals Faeez. Tripfez currently partners with about 60,000 hotels across 50 countries. In May last year, immediately after its seed round, Tripfez had about 10,000 hotels on board.
The growth of the Muslim travel market is larger than the average, soliciting a lot of interest from within and without the hospitality industry. One of the biggest problems to date has been the lack of information on what to do to be able to tap into this market.
“We’re here to facilitate hotels tapping into this market,” says Faeez, adding that while Tripfez approaches hotels about the Salam Standard, a large number come to Tripfez, rearing to get certified and get into the market.
“We are everywhere,” quips Faeez when asked how hotels find out about the standard. He is not wrong – Tripfez and Salam Standard have been featured in international mainstream media and hotels who see competitors using the standard want to jump onto the bandwagon.
In December last year, in a brilliantly meta move, Tripfez, through Salam Standard, published the report The Global Economic Impact of Muslim Tourism. The report uses data gathered from Salam Standard and shows how global tourism has grown by 37% in inflation-adjusted terms since the economic downturn of 2009, outpacing world GDP. In 2015, the Muslim travel market was worth 10% of total international tourism, which is US$145 billion.
The report made data on the Muslim travel market widely available, meaning stakeholders could quantify the impact it was having on their economies and businesses, and helped strengthen their belief in its further growth potential.
The report has brought a lot of recognition for Tripfez and more interest in Salam Standard from both hotels and destination marketing organisations (DMOs). Tripfez is looking to work with Tourism Malaysia - Faeez says that the tourism industry is like a huge web with every player interconnected, so working with DMOs makes sense as these are the organisations who can really develop the industry.
He reveals that DMOs outside of Malaysia and other Muslim-majority countries have been working to encourage Muslim travel. Japan, for example, has been quite proactive on this front. “I always think of Japan as the future, We will all be doing whatever they are doing soon. So I see this as a sign of the industry really developing,” he says.
Though still a young company – it is about two years old - Tripfez is certainly growing rapidly. Faeez says Tripfez’s links within the industry have stood them in good stead; Tripfez was part of the Amadeus for Startups programme, run by global distribution system Amadeus Next, which opened up a lot of doors within the industry.
“Competition will always be there no matter what industry you’re in, but I do think it’s a lot harder in the travel industry because you’re all ultimately selling the same thing. If you are able to meet the demand of the customer or user, that will differentiate you,” he says.
In differentiating Tripfez from the competition, Faeez stresses the concept of localisation, something that Tripfez is pushing the industry to achieve. “Every single traveller’s needs are different. The industry tends to assume a universal standard – ‘this is what everyone wants’ – but when you move from country to country there will always be specific differences of need,” he explains.
“We are meeting the need of the Muslim traveller. When you examine these needs, you will find that no matter how different the traveller is or where they are from, they are united by a common faith and most of their needs are the same.”
Faeez calls the Muslim travel market one of the last few as yet not fully tapped frontiers in the travel industry, and admits that there is always more to be done to tap into it further, not just for Tripfez but everyone else in the industry. The API, he says, will help other companies do this.
Expansion and balance
Tripfez will soon have a few travel sites using the API and moving forward plans to get more on board. Another thing on the cards is increasing its brand presence among consumers; it is already quite well-known within the industry. Finding this balance between the industry and the consumers is important, says Faeez.
He reveals that Tripfez will be launching a partnership with a leading authority to enhance the Salam Standard product presence among industry and consumers in the second quarter of this year, stopping short of revealing more.
Tripfez has use the seed funding to get this far and will go a little further on it. It is, according to Faeez, always open to the opportunity to work with investors in the near future.
“Travel is a need, so people will always travel,” he says. With its positive growth within the industry and the value proposition it offers through Salam Standard, it seems that Tripfez is on an upward trajectory.