An interview with Mr Mohamad Haj Hassan

1- Halal tourism is a relatively new concept. How would you evaluate the experience of your hotels in meeting the demands of this important sector?

The ease of travel, access to a vast library of information about destinations and cultural requirements are among the factors contributing to a rapid rise in ‘niche tourism’, such as ‘Halal travel’. Here, at home, Dubai and Abu Dhabi have tapped into these trends. Abu Dhabi is positioning itself as a destination for ‘Halal tourism’ — a concept that offers a range of holiday packages marketed under three banners — ‘Family Friendly Fun’, ‘Cultural Enlightenment’ and ‘Resorts, Restaurants and Relaxation’. In fact, according to the latest Global Islamic Economy Report, the UAE is the world’s top Halal travel destination.[1]

Rotana is proud to say that its culturally aware brand, Rayhaan, is the first alcohol-free hospitality brand in the region, but that is certainly not the brand’s only unique selling point. Imagine oases of elegance and luxury where every need of the guest is met with the utmost discretion and respect for their culture.

From the instant they walk through the doors of these impressive havens, guests are treated to attentive, yet unobtrusive service, quality food and beverage available through our all-day dining restaurants, well-appointed resort, meeting and event facilities and luxuriously appointed interiors. Rotana is proud of its Rayhaan properties across the region with the two in the cities of Makkah and Karbala, Rosh Rayhaan by Rotana in Riyadh and the three properties in United Arab Emirates — Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana in Abu Dhabi, Al Ghurair Rayhaan by Rotana in Dubai and Rose Rayhaan by Rotana in Dubai (a property which until very recently proudly bore the distinction of being the tallest hotel in the world).

2- Could you tell us about the difference between the four hotel brands in your hotel group: Arjaan, Rayhaan, Centro and Rotana?

The Rotana Brand is for guests who love exploring cities and coastlines passing through the Middle East and Africa region. It includes four and five star hotels and resorts for both business and leisure guests.

As for the Arjaan brand, it falls under Rotana hotel apartments, representing the highest living standards in a deluxe city with the finest ever hotel apartment buildings, dedicated to residents and long-term stay families.

The Centro brand is based on the idea of modern accommodation at affordable prices through the adoption of the economic comfort concept; offering hospitality services and luxury accommodation with affordable costs in an atmosphere characterized by its modern and contemporary nature.

Finally, the Rayhaan brand symbolizes a hospitality community that is the first of its kind in the region as mentioned earlier. It includes four and five star hotels and resorts that have all the standards that define the finest and most luxurious hotels in the region but does not serve alcoholic beverages.

3- Many global hospitality companies, such as Hilton, Marriott, Jumeirah and others, seek to attract the Muslim traveler, but are also keen on retaining their customers. Sociable Earth helps its hotel partners in this regard. How does Rotana intend to contribute?

We are seeking bridges of communication and partnership with all the entities that can enable us to reach all travelers wherever they are. We strive to move forward to reach each and every one of them and introduce them to what we can offer our guests, whether they are looking to complete Hajj or Umrah, or traveling for business or leisure in the region.

4- What does halal travel mean to you personally? Muslims are scattered all over the world, and some Muslims would not visit a hotel except if it was completely free of alcohol, while others would not mind it as long as alcoholic beverages are out of sight.

To me, halal travel means transportation and accommodation that does not violate the provisions of the religion.

5- Almost five years ago, halal travel was limited to Makkah and Madinah. Today, the Muslim elite are less committed to visiting relatives, and are now more open to visiting different destinations with friends and family. How would you explain this change in the concept of travel for Muslims?

The world is currently living in a more open and connected age, and this is our first time seeing the fusion of cultures as it is today. On the other hand, owners of touristic businesses, hotels and resorts, and before them countries with tourism-based economies, are always seeking to attract more tourists and travelers. Thousands of hospitality facilities today offer the Holy Quran, remove alcoholic beverages, and offer halal food to their guests, especially in countries not known to have welcomed Muslims before.

Today, the situation is changing, and what rules is the interest of business and trade. Guests from this part of the world are an essential component of the global community, and thus receive the attention of hospitality facilities around the world aspiring to win their satisfaction.

6- Do any of your hotels offer private beaches?

Absolutely. Several of Rotana’s hotels and resorts offer their guests private beaches.

7- Do you provide guests with the direction of the qibla and the Holy Quran inside the room? Are they always available or do guests need to request them?

The direction of the qibla, the Holy Quran and the prayer rug are all essentials in any room or suite and are available at most of Rotana’s hotels and resorts.

8- Sociable Earth has recently organized the world’s largest survey on Muslim travelers among 35,000 people with 30 basic elements. In your opinion, how important is this survey for destinations interested in the market of halal tourism and travel?

We always look forward to taking advantage of the important opportunities made available, and we work hard to provide all the elements that can attract this segment from all around the world to our diverse hotels and resorts.

The annual survey you’re mentioning seems interesting because it is clear that you’ve exerted strenuous efforts to execute it, since it would require great potential and effort. We are definitely interested in the results of the survey, as well as the data that will be deduced from it; which will have the greatest impact on our continuous efforts to develop our products and services and upgrade them to the highest levels of guest satisfaction.

Is there anything you’d like to say to conclude this interview?

Thank you

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