Islamic Lifestyle

CASE STUDY- ‘Muslim Airbnb’ Bookhalalhomes advances to Phase 2 after June launch

| 10 July, 2016 | Case Study
 DinarStandard
CASE STUDY- ‘Muslim Airbnb’ Bookhalalhomes advances to Phase 2 after June launch
Photo: Novigrad Istarski, Istria, Croatia. Bookhalalhomes now offers use of 42 properties todate, including in Croatia. 
BOOKHALALHOMES
Year of Founding2015, site launched in June this year
Founder and CEO

Karima Bihaki

Headquarters

London, UK

Scale42 homes across 8 countries signed up to date 

OVERVIEW

Bookhalalhomes is a peer-to-peer property rental platform that connects Muslim travelers with Muslim hosts, offering a more tailored service than leading established platforms such as Airbnb.

The company has been financed by its founder and CEO Karima Bihaki and is in its first launch phase – where it is signing up property owners. 42 properties across eight countries have come on board: Croatia, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Maldives, The Netherlands, Turkey, UAE (Abu Dhabi, and Dubai) and the United Kingdom (London).

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  1. 42 properties signed up to date and a further 60 in the pipeline
  2. Substantial media coverage in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – including Gulf Construction online, Trade Arabia and Arab Times online
  3. The first peer-to-peer home rental platform exclusively focused on Muslim-friendly travel and tourism

OPPORTUNITIES TO BE ADDRESSED

Muslims spent an estimated $142 billion on global outbound travel in 2014, representing 11 percent of global expenditure on outbound tourism, according to the State of the Global Islamic Economy 2015/16 report.

Peer-to-peer rentals globally was estimated at $50 billion in 2015, based on 2011 estimates by Rachel Botsman, a leading expert on collaborative consumption, and growth estimated by DinarStandard.

Bookhalalhomes seeks to address an unmet need in the Muslim travelling community.

RELATED

Muslim P2P property rentals capturing share in a $50 bln global market

STRATEGY

Connecting the ummah and broadening the choice of lodging for Muslim tourists

Bookhalalhomes is the first attempt to provide an alternative to popular peer-to-peer platforms such as Airbnb.

In developing the concept, Bihaki leveraged her own personal experience in renting her home in London and the Netherlands for over ten years.

Developing a platform that connected Muslim travelers with hosts also seemed less costly than developing a Muslim-friendly hotel, which she had initially considered.

“I had rented my property for over 10 years to Muslim students and short-let travelers, mainly females, who did not wish to stay at mixed-gender dorm rooms and had also sought to stay in private accommodation with Muslim hosts when travelling personally. I realized that the investment for a Muslim-friendly hotel would be too much so I decided to focus on developing a peer-to-peer platform with the support of developers and software engineers,” said Bihaki.

To further substantiate the market demand for this concept, Bihaki sought to understand the experiences and unmet needs of Muslim guests staying at Muslim-friendly hotels through reading online reviews. She realized that many travelers were not happy with the lack of privacy and forced segregation that occurred.

 “As I was going through online reviews, I collected a lot of data on the negative reviews from various hotels - a lot of Muslims go to hotels with the expectation that it is all Islamic. But there is often a lot of privacy issues – places were very noisy and very crowded. I wasn’t feeling comfortable that much myself when I stayed in such hotels. However, segregation is also a problem – the leisure facilities are all apart, such as swimming and beach. So there are a lot of needs that are not addressed,” Bihaki added.

Discussing the need for a platform to facilitate booking space in unused private accommodations, Bihaki said, “I realized there is a need for a platform where just average people offer their unused accommodations; houses, rooms, apartments for stays of various lengths - a weekend break through to a long-term let to travelers from the community. The accommodation could cost less than a hotel.”

“Additionally, Muslim travelers can enjoy halal accommodations that offer a different experience from standard hotels, more personal privacy and bigger accommodations for your money.”

The business model is for Bookhalalhomes to earn 14 percent of the transaction value – split evenly between the host and the guest.

Screenshot from Bookhalalhomes.com

Ensuring the best possible experience for travelers

Bookhalalhomes holds the hosts to high standards – and has developed a set of competencies for homes to be accepted, coined as “Houses of competence”. This refers to the behavior of a host such as attention to communication, respecting boundaries and credibility. It also captures important criteria such as prayer spaces, alcohol-free premises, and halal food.

Furthermore, to ensure a safe environment, Bookhalalhomes has embedded an identify check software on its platform. At the first level of screening, it will ask for real names and telephone numbers to ensure the homeowners are genuinely who they purport to be, and at a second level, it screens homeowners for any criminal history.

 “There are lots of potential hosts, but what I realized is that not everyone can be a host. I’ve developed a set of competencies to ensure the best possible experience for potential tenants … I’m also planning to embed a security feature on the platform to ensure there are no mishaps down the road – the last thing I want is negative press attention,” said Bihaki.

Travel Bookhalalhomes Host Competence diagram

Screenshote from Bookhalalhomes.com

Marketing through regional experts

While the company has not yet started a marketing campaign directly targeting potential travelers, it has undertaken an active campaign to sign up hosts, hiring regional experts, branded as ‘country ambassadors’. The company has seven country ambassadors, adding South Africa to its target list.

Bihaki has attracted these ambassadors primarily through a targeted online campaign. The ambassadors are in charge of identifying attractive, Muslim-friendly locations and signing up homeowners, largely through offline targeting.

“The ambassadors know exactly where to look and I have given them a range of different holiday formats – I want to make sure they get the ideal homes for families, adventurous travelers, honeymooners, and that we are able to cater for different types of travelers.”

CHALLENGES

A major challenge that Bookhalalhomes has faced is convincing homeowners to list their homes. “There is a cultural shift that needs to take place, but we have overcome this challenge by leveraging our country ambassadors to explain the benefits of renting their homes. They meet new people, unite the community and earn good money,” said Bihaki.

OPPORTUNITIES

The company plans to rapidly increase its inventory of homes prior to the second phase of its launch, having opened up to bookings in June 2016. It is actively seeking investors to help it to undertake an extensive marketing campaign and attract customers.

“So far, I have funded this myself but I am now taking steps to speak with investors and get the funding we need. I am happy to give away a shareholding in my company in return for both capital and knowledge,” said Bihaki. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Identify a genuine gap in the market and seek to back it up with expertise

Leverage the help of experts to bring your idea to fruition – in case of Bookhalalhomes, people with technology backgrounds and on-the-ground local experience were instrumental in building out the service and inventory

© SalaamGateway.com 2016

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