We always strive to dream big and achieve bigger things at Have Halal, Will Travel (HHWT). Our vision has always been to foster peace and understanding between people of different backgrounds through travel. Travel has become one of the great forces of peace, breaking down stereotypes and biases people may have. To everyone who has been on this journey with us, we have something exciting to share with the community!
In April 2020, Forbes Asia released its annual 30 Under 30 Asia that shines the spotlight on 300 entrepreneurs, innovators, leaders, and change-makers in the Asia-Pacific region who are making a difference in their respective industries. From enterprise technology to healthcare and science, the list is as diverse as its region. It includes Malaysia's first hijab-wearing female pro wrestler Nor Diana, Bangladesh's first female comedian Raba Khan, and Philippines' social entrepreneur Louise Mabulo.
We're proud and happy to share that our HHWT co-founders Suzana and Elaine made it to Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia - Media, Marketing & Advertising 2020 list!
Judged by The Studio's founder Chantal Abouchar and Catcha Group's co-founder and CEO Patrick Grove, it was a huge honour to be listed in the category alongside other inspiring innovators and game-changers in the industry. Taking the time out of their busy schedules, Suzana and Elaine share their biggest motivation and their vision for the Muslim travel industry during these trying times.
What was the first thing that came to mind when you heard the news?
Suzana: I was really excited and honoured! The first thing I did was to share the news with the rest of the HHWT team because this wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication and passion of our team.
Elaine: I'm also happy that more people will now get to hear about HHWT, and it’s an amazing opportunity and platform for the world to hear our voices and vision!
Who has been the biggest motivation in getting to where you are today?
Suzana: Our audience has been the biggest motivation. Knowing that with every guide that we push out, every collaboration that we make, we’re making it easier for a Muslim traveller to see the world. And with every Muslim traveller taking that step out, we are fostering peace and understanding between people of different backgrounds and hence peace through travel. We really appreciate the numerous messages of feedback and support from our community (that’s you!) because it keeps us going when times are hard and motivates us to keep improving!
Elaine: Seeing the guides and content that we publish, really going a long way to helping the community. For me personally, the community has always been a huge motivation, to know that the work that the team has been doing, has an actual impact and truly allowed more travellers to plan their trips. Every comment, feedback and suggestion comes in, along with the photos that travellers tag us with on social media - we all get excited receiving them and seeing how we can better improve our content and the way we deliver them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made a huge impact on the travel industry as a whole. As the largest travel and lifestyle publication for Muslims in Asia, how's HHWT adapting to the current situation?
Suzana: HHWT’s content has always been about travel and Muslims so it’s a very challenging period for us as we’re forced to adapt quickly. However, we do understand that we’ve got a better shot at stopping COVID-19 if we stay home! One thing that hasn’t changed is our team’s commitment to listening to the needs of you, our reader. Our content right now is about hope, it’s about dreaming about your next getaway, about travelling with your bellies and most importantly, it’s about being Muslim with duas as guidance and patience during this trying period.
Elaine: In this time where everyone is getting bombarded with news updates daily or even hourly, and the outlook being seemingly grim, we’re hoping for our content to lift up everyone’s spirit and to bring a little positivity to everyone’s feed! While adapting our content to encourage everyone to stay healthy and fit during these times, we’re also not forgetting our roots - bringing people together (virtually and spiritually) and of course, also inspiring everyone to look ahead and start dreaming and planning for their next trip when the situation improves!
When it's finally safe to travel again, which trip are you dreaming of taking next?
Suzana: I’m dreaming of returning to the Maldives again because the last few months feel like a rollercoaster ride and we all deserve a relaxing vacation. Maybe prices will be more affordable too, so save up everyone!
Elaine: Egypt! Whenever I visit museums, I make a straight stop for the Egyptian section and have always been fascinated by history, and of course, mummies! I can only imagine how amazing it would be to be there and look up at the Great Pyramid of Giza, and to be able to immerse and discover the stories of the pharaohs of the past.
What is your vision for the Muslim travel industry in the next few years?
Suzana: We’ve been working to build a safe haven for the Muslim travel community to share our tips and experiences. The HHWT has grown so much since we started in 2015 and we can’t wait to get to know each other even better! (We can’t wait to share with you what we have in mind!).
We hope Muslims will get safe, equal and diverse experiences when they travel as well and we’ll strive to work towards helping more brands better understand who Muslim travellers are, just regular people who want to see the world without compromising on our faith!
Elaine: For more global brands and destinations to truly understand the needs of Muslim travellers and from HHWT’s end, to help bridge that gap between them and the community. As our platform and our activities grew, we gained the trust of many global brands and tourism bodies which allowed us to influence their strategies and communication plans. I hope to see this grow even deeper and further, as we work with more governments to develop their strategies and infrastructure, to enable the community to travel to much further places as well.
Allowing brands and governments to understand that Muslim travellers are just like everyone else when they travel - they too look for local experiences to immerse in, local food that they can enjoy, all while not compromising on their faith. And I’m excited for HHWT to communicate this with more brands and governments to widen the experiences and activities the community will have access to.
To end this, we're echoing Suzana and Elaine's gratitude by saying thank you from the bottom of our hearts! You have played a huge part in helping the community, inspiring Muslims to go further than they've ever been and most importantly, supporting our journey to where we are today. We're very grateful and honoured to have you as part of our journey. Together, we work hard and continue to inspire and help Muslims to go out and see the world.