There is a sudden realisation among key developers in GCC that hotels and hospitality in Arabia 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. These new brands will address how Muslim needs are met and how they want to be treated.
However, the real challenge lies in providing an environment which is rich enough to allow competitive comfort and luxury that not only rivals Western hotels, but equally sets a new global standard of quality yet conservative enough in taste while maintaining the aesthetic and spiritual balances and the etiquette so highly cherished by the Muslims.
The thought of creating hospitality concepts under specific religious and cultural lines is nothing new, Islamic Hotel Brand concepts to accommodate billions of Muslims is not any different then the current western hotels or what we may call for a minute a Christian Hospitality experience. What stared out from the Inns-Pubs-Taverns and later modernized yet maintained the same basin-sink to wash with stoppers, bathtubs and highly customized Western menus with liquor and music is still the main foundation of all the 5 star name brand hotels all around the world. They have certainly pioneered a great global standard.
The GCC is in need of places where Muslims absorbed in their culture amidst the practice of Islam would be fully at ease with all interactions and relate to all surroundings during a stay. It is simply about creating Islamic hotel brands and Islamic family hospitality and recreation. The delivery of such concepts on a world-class standard would demand a deep understanding of creating the right themes and ambiances, the right architecture, the interior and exterior, timing and routines and all staffing supported by image creation, and most importantly, the ultimate test of creating a unique, 5-star global name identities worthy of global iconization and respectable attention.
After all, today a room having a Qibla pointing signage stuck on the ceiling, a prayer rug, a bidet or an arch stretching somewhere in the room is considered authentically Islamic, while amidst the westernized opulence rests a mini-bar hidden in furniture. Conveniently available as the only possible options, these rooms are popular and have worked very well. But nevertheless, the western franchises must prepare themselves to become more deeply involved with actual facts of the Islamic issues instead of a few cosmetic accessories.
No matter how fast the hyper-global-image-repositioning between the east and west is showing a divide in cultural tastes and lifestyle preferences, this measurement alone requires a grassroots level understanding, rather than some-off-the-cuff adjustments to old, already existing concepts. Also to ignore the next largest upcoming boom of Muslim travelers and vacationers of the new GCC will become a very serious matter. The entire hospitality concept could get a localization makeover and the creation of local brands in GCC stretching all over the Muslim world. Who would have believed five years ago the world’s tallest building to be in Dubai?
Therefore sudden panic launches of new Islamic hotel brands introducing highly scripted confusing logos, a barrage of Arabic names with strange or multiple meanings, a Minaret in the courtyard with periodic recitals or Friday shutdowns is not the answer. 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, commanding a balancing knowledge with a very precise understanding of the differences between Muslims of various local and global regions and recognizing Islam as a great universal message with its various groups and practices. Lastly, a global level understanding of world-class image creation and sustained delivery of concepts is needed to carry forth this grassroots change. Only such assembly of thought and skills under one roof would ensure the delivery of such noble dreams.
Islamic hotel branding, family travel and Muslim tourism will soon become a new phenomena in the booming GCC, and once 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 mark.
Naseem Javed, is on a crusade to create local brands out of GCC, he is a new and a powerful voice in this region on global image positioning and mega corporate name identities while raising serious questions on the root causes of why GCC does not have any respectable, globally recognized local brands. Naseem has personally created global name identities which, when combined, receive a turnover of $40 Billion US dollars per annum. He founded ABC Namebank International in Toronto and New York over a quarter century ago. He is currently lecturing in GCC. [email protected] www.abcnamebank.com