Published on Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Long-haul operator Serendipity Tailormade has temporarily stopped selling flights on US airlines to Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America.
Director Nabeel Shariff said the operator had already decided to postpone the launch of a US programme prior to President Donald Trump announcing his 120-day ban on nationals of seven Muslim majority countries last week.
The UK Foreign Office has since clarified that the ban will not apply to British passport holders, including those born in the countries affected or dual passport holders.
However, Shariff said the announcement from the Foreign Office did not provide enough reassurance for his all-Muslim clientele.
As a result, Serendipity Tailormade has stopped selling flights on American Airlines, United and Continental to Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. Instead, it is using preferred airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Air Canada.
He insisted the company wasn't trying to penalise the US travel industry, but added: "We have to ensure clients would feel comfortable travelling to the US and at this moment, it's at its highest level of concern since 9/11."
Shariff said the operator decided to postpone the launch of its US city breaks after Trump mooted a Muslim travel ban during his election campaign in early 2016.
"At that point, reports of Muslims being profiled and even refused travel to US destinations caused concern for our intended launch of three US cities as new destinations for Serendipity Tailormade and Muslim travellers," he said.
"We had worked with hoteliers across the US from the Viceroy New York to the Intercontinental Beverly Hills to develop halal-friendly services, however we decided to postpone our launch in light of the primaries and instead launched Canada as our first destination in North America."
Shariff said the halal tourism market is worth over $150 billion globally, but Cheapflights reported a 15% drop in searches to the US in the first week since Trump entered the White House and Nabeel said he saw more and more Muslim travellers reluctant to travel.
"Why spend well earned money for a dream trip to only have to be worried before departing on your journey? Muslim travellers are intrepid, especially those from the UK, Europe, the Far East and The Gulf. They are often ambitious, affluent and experiential, a growing sector of the travel industry that requires comfort and a warm welcome to justify their choice of holiday.
"We believe the potential delays and distress that landing into US destinations or flying on US airlines could cause clients is simply unnecessary. Our approach to halal travel is all about inclusiveness, and regimes or destinations that deliberately go against the simplest of human rights, goes very much against our principles.
"We implemented this approach with Myanmar and its treatment of the Rohingya people, when the country was becoming an emerging destination. We hope that however small, our stance will help to making a stand against such policy."
Meanwhile, international airline body IATA has asked for clarification from the US regarding the temporary travel ban. In a statement it said: "The Executive Order was issued without prior coordination or warning, causing confusion among both airlines and travelers. It also placed additional burdens on airlines to comply with unclear requirements, to bear implementation costs and to face potential penalties for non-compliance.
"We ask for early clarity from the US administration on the current situation. Moreover, we urge all governments to provide sufficient advance coordination of changes in entry requirements so that travelers can clearly understand them and airlines can efficiently implement them."
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