For a love for travelling that can now be shared with all, 30-year-old Ammar Roslizar brings forth halal travelling as a way to ensure everyone gets the most out of their holidays with ARBA Travel.
How did the idea for a halal travel agency come about?
ARBA Travel is a global travel company specialising in Halal Tourism that began its journey in May 2014. ARBA Travel has four shareholders – Ammar Roslizar, Amir, Dr Aizuddin and Ammar Shahrin – with 28 years of experience living overseas combined.
Our days of freelancing as tour guides at each country (where we studied) earned us the local knowledge. Coming home, we discovered that the tour packages offered by Malaysian Travel Agencies neglected these local experiences. There was no real product differentiation between them.
We didn’t have any formal experience in travel industry. However, this turned to be an opportunity for us. We tailored our own travel packages through R&D and eliminated the typical tourist traps (i.e. compulsory shopping spots) in the itinerary. Malaysians loved this, and our products penetrated the market quite fast. We also had the upper hand of dealing with suppliers as we could speak with their mother tongue.
We decided to focus on the Halal Tourism market with two criteria. Firstly, the market size must be big enough. By only gaining 10% of that, we knew that we would have an MYR100 million revenue potential. Secondly, it must be a growing market. This was important as we wanted to ride the growing and trending demand, rather than compete in a dying industry.
Other than offering a halal travel experience, what else do you think sets your travel agency apart from the competition?
Halal Travel is our market focus, not our competitive advantage. Our real competitive advantages are first, our service excellence. We have our own service standard called Budi Hospitality. Budi is a Malay concept, best translated as ‘the perfection of human being’. It’s a unification of ethic and service in one word. Ourdaily work and activities – dealing with colleagues & customers – are governed by budi. That’s why our customer satisfaction score is quite high, 4.8/5. It’s not perfect, but high enough for a service industry. One day, we know that Budi Hospitality will be used by many businesses around the world, just like how we use Kaizen (a Japanese concept) as a best practice. This is our legacy.
Second, technology. We have systemised our business operations via implementing Lisa (an Artificial Intelligence programme) to execute daily repetitive tasks such as inputting customer data, confirming booking and checking seats availability. Lisa will provide a daily pulse to the leadership team in order to monitor and track the progress and performance of the respective departments. Basically, Lisa can help capture, curate, analyse and report all the data we have. We are currently developing our own geo-tagging software and/or hardware in order to understand our customers better. Each of our tour leaders and guides would be updating their location in real time while travelling with the customers. These initiatives enable us to create a unique and new experience for both customers and the company. We are able to understand the customer behaviour and thus offer the best product experience base.
What were the issues of challenges you faced with creating a niche market within the travel industry?
The main challenge was to remain focused. From time to time, there were opportunities coming not from Halal Tourism niche market. Even though the value of the opportunity was quite significant, we needed to say no few times.
Where do you see ARBA Travel in the next 10 years?
ARBA Hotel. We have our own RoadMap2023. ARBA Travel currently is in phase 2 (2017-2020): ‘Building Customer Infrastructure’ where our main focuses are in outbound, inbound domestic and umrah markets. We aim to be an leading brand for halal tourism by 2023. By 2021, we aim to diversify into new travel sub-markets. Based on our data, we should venture into two sub-markets i.e. either restaurants or hotels. We prefer hotels.
Where do you see halal travel going in the future?
The market size for Halal Tourism, as of now is RM610 billion. Two years from now, it will grow to RM1 trillion in market size, i.e. 13% of global travel industry. The growing rate of Halal Tourism is also to outbid the average growth rate of the travel industry at large. Hence, we foresee an exciting future for Halal Tourism. One thing to improve is the perception or positioning of ‘Halal’ itself. Now, Halal may only attract Muslim customers. However, we also foresee that Halal itself should become a premium standard accepted globally. If this effort can be made by all players within the Halal market ecosystem, we would increase the size of opportunity that Halal can tap into.
Ammar Roslizar was a top nominee for the EY Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year 2018.
TEXT NEDA AL-ASEDI & SWAROOPINI UDHAYA NAIR
PHOTOGRAPHY ROBIN LIEW
ART DIRECTION AUDREY LIM