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According to the ‘2013 state of the Global Islamic Economy’ by Thomson Reuters and Dinar Standard, the Muslim travel sector is worth an estimated 137 billion US dollars. Clearly a want and need is present for Islamic compliant travel and Serendipity Tailormade, bespoke travel and tour operators, are making waves throughout the Muslim community (both nationally and internationally) in being the first travel company in Europe and the USA to offer halal friendly holidays and tours across the world.
Set up by Nabeel Shariff who has been working in the travel industry for fifteen years, Serendipity Tailormade offer a selection of halal holidays across the globe – but not just to Islamic / Muslim majority countries. Had you ever thought it possible to have a halal-friendly trip to Australia, Cambodia, Thailand, China, Japan, Brazil, the Seychelles or Chile? Me neither – but the experts at Serendipity have this all covered.
Serendipity Tailormade, if compared to the major players in the UK travel industry, would sit closely with Trailfinders and Kuoni. Whilst the industry is undoubtedly competitive, Serendipity believe that holidays are a luxury and so deal with mid-range to luxury hotels. Though the destinations on offer by Serendipity are mostly long-haul, they also offer a range of group tours and will soon be launching European cities (great for those of us that yearn for a weekend trip but ache for halal food once we land!).
During my chat with Nabeel, his passion for travel is clear from the enigmatic way he gives me information and anecdotes about where he has travelled, the countries that Serendipity have made available for their clients and his future destinations on his wish-list! A small company of just four, the staff at Serendipity live up to their name and ensure that their clients all receive a ‘tailormade’, personalised experience. Service is incredibly important to them, and Nabeel comments that “70% of our business comes on recommendation”.
Serendipity want to bring travel to second and third generation Muslims who aspire to be and experience something that is out of the norm and expected of ‘typical’ Muslim travel. Sure, luxury destinations dotted across the Middle East are fantastic escapes, but what about trying halal peking duck in China or going white-water rafting in Sri-Lanka followed by a sumptuous halal meal following all the excitement?!
“We cater to all spectrums of Muslims”, Nabeel explains, “we’re not here to tell people what faith is. Some clients may just be concerned with whether halal food is available, others may want a completely dry hotel (no alcohol on the premises), some may want female only swimming / spa options... We go through the different options we have with each of our clients”. With an amazing 25 destinations available to those that opt to book their next holiday with Serendipity, the company aim to deliver – no request appears to be too large, and no question too obscure.
Keen not to just send their clients off to a far-flung destination without preparing them first, the guys at Serendipity between them have been to each destination offered and are on hand to provide information and answer any queries that clients may have regarding their destination of choice; whether it be where one can source the best halal Thai / Chinese / Indian / Middle Eastern cuisine or even alternative routes throughout cities so that undesirable scenes are not viewed / experienced – Nabeel ensures me that Serendipity has it all covered. They also have made it common practice to provide their clients with ‘halal friendly guides’ before they travel to a destination, information in the guides include the best halal restaurants, mosques / prayer spaces, places to visit that won’t cause discomfort, common phrases etc. – local knowledge, therefore, is imperative.
Nabeel tells me that authenticity is of the utmost importance to himself and the rest of his staff; “Local food and local cuisine is so important. Not all Muslims are the same across the world, second and third generation British Muslims are used to a certain demographic” he says, and travelling to destinations out of one’s comfort zone heighten knowledge, tolerance and understanding between different people.
Offering and branding themselves as offering halal-friendly holidays is not enough though. Halal integrity is of the utmost importance to Nabeel and his team – they only use interest free bank accounts and they have launched the Serendipity Foundation - £5 per booking, per person goes to aid various community projects in Sri-Lanka as well as those closer to home. Giving back is both rewarding and necessary in today’s world and Serendipity Tailormade have ensured that they incorporate this into their company ethos.
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