Young Muslim travellers will soon be able to book their own do-it-yourself umrah (minor pilgrimage), according to a recent halal travel report. This trend will be spurred by changes in the umrah visa process and rise of new interactive technology.

The Mastercard-CrescentRating Halal Travel Frontier 2019 Report stated that the traditional umrah market is set for disruption from the practice of DIY umrah.

CrescentRating and HalalTrip chief executive officer Fazal Bahardeen said 2019 is when the use of technology will affect traditional Hajj and umrah travel providers.

“This will mean that these players need to re-evaluate their services and the added value that they offer to their customers,” he said.

The current umrah visa process has been a roadblock in preventing major business model disruptions. However, the report said this process is set to undergo changes that will subsequently allow new players to emerge in the umrah space.

“With new umrah solutions, more pilgrims, in particular the younger ones, will be able to book and arrange their own umrah trips without needing to depend on a travel agent or join an umrah tour group,” the report read.

The report also foresees the traditional service roles of pilgrimage providers to be replaced by web-connected applications and virtual reality (VR).

The majority of pilgrims require extensive training to familiarise with the proper performance of the rituals prior to embarking on the trip. Umrah agents are a key source in providing this service of “manual training” for the pilgrims.

However, with the advancement of VR technology, previous traditional training services will become less impactful.
Ayoob Yacoob Angullia, the founder of a leading Hajj travel provider in Singapore, said VR will enhance the pilgrimage experience.

“The use of VR will give pilgrims an extra dimension incorporated into their learning of the rituals of performing umrah. Pilgrims are able to immerse themselves at the Masjidil Haram premises, with details that expose them to the actual surroundings,” he said.

Ayoob added that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will also be widely used for visa processing and other processes.

MasterCard division president (Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei) Safdar Khan said the halal travel market is rapidly accelerating and relatively untapped.

“It is crucial to understand the specific needs of Muslim travellers and tailor make products and services that respect their religious and cultural beliefs. It is also important to consider the profound effect that new technology and digitisation has on the way the travel industry communicates and interacts with travellers – especially millennials,” he said.

The global Muslim traveller expenditure is projected to reach US$220bil (RM899.25bil) in 2020 according to the Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index 2018.

The full report is available at crescentrating.com.