Q&A with Salam Booking's Founder

Published on
July 13, 2023

If you missed the webinar with Salam Booking's founder, Kerim Ture, we’ve summarised some vital information about Salam Booking in a Q&A session.

Q1. How can the insights gained from your initial marketing venture targeting the Muslim community be effectively leveraged and implemented within Salam Booking?

Numerous significant takeaways emerged from our initial endeavor, particularly the heartening realization that contributing positively to one's community begets profound connections and advocacy. The success story of Modanisa exemplifies this, as its unique and tailored service garnered widespread attention through minimal advertising, creating a buzz due to its novel approach to unmet needs. Notably, contentedMuslim customers emerged as potent brand advocates, organically promoting our offerings when genuinely satisfied.

The exponential value of contentedMuslim clientele becomes evident, their loyalty surpassing that of conventional customers. This stems from an emotional bond cultivated by addressing their distinct requirements. Furthermore, the societal influence wielded by theMuslim community underscores their collaborative strength. Engaging with influencers and collaborative ventures not only extends our reach but also tapsinto emerging new media avenues.

In conclusion, our initial venture imparts invaluable insights to Salam Booking. Personalized services, fostering emotional connections, and leveraging the collective influence of the Muslim demographic are pivotal strategies for success. Collaborative projects and partnerships enhance our engagement and resonate with this dynamic audience, positioning us to navigate this landscape adeptly.

 

Q2. What motivated the transition from fashion (Modanisa) to tourism (Salam Booking)?

The transition from fashion to tourism had been an underlying aspiration, dating back to my early involvement in pioneering online ticketing in the early 2000s. However, competing priorities, including my role in a startup accelerator, hindered its realization.

During the Modanisa era, attempts were made to embark on the tourism initiative. Yet, the fast-paced fashion industry's demands and Modanisa's trajectory necessitated focus. About a year and a half ago, I shifted from CEO of Modanisa to Chairman, allowing me to devote attention to SalamBooking.

The tourism sector's allure lies inits dynamic nature. Our generation's inclination for international travel, especially among Generation Z, raises questions about generational and gender travel trends.

This shift in travel behavior unveils trends. Contemporary travelers seek novel experiences, supplanting traditional ancestral visits. Expatriates, over four million in Europe, represent a market for unique travel experiences.

Another trend is the dissolution of travel boundaries, seen in Saudi Arabia's revamped visa program. Travelers can transcend structured pilgrimage packages for personalized excursions. The global online shift underscores the urgency to offer meaningful travel, cementing SalamBooking's role for the Muslim community.

Women's role in travel decisions, informed by Modanisa's insights, is mirrored in SalamBooking’s approach toMuslim women. The broader Muslim community’s strength bolsters our efforts.

 

Q3. Could you elaborate on your earlier mention of the burgeoning middle classes in regions such as Europe, SaudiArabia, India, and Indonesia? Considering Salam Booking's analytical insights, could you delineate your strategic focus regarding these markets? Is the intent to encompass all these markets or are there specific priorities in play?

In our fledgling enterprise of threeto four months, trust establishment takes precedence, a vital aspect within thetravel sector. Our initial focus centers on Turkey, where our roots provide a nuanced understanding of its dynamics and a reliable base of operations.

While Turkey remains pivotal, ourpurview expands beyond. Collaborations with UK-based influencers have spurredcurated tours extending from the UK to Turkey. Notably, we recognize the latent potential in diverse countries, including Pakistan and Indonesia, as well asWestern Europe and Germany.

 Our expansion strategy, however,adheres to a sequential progression. The confluence of Europe and the GulfCooperation Council (GCC) assumes focal importance, epitomized by the synergybetween Egypt and Turkey. As we evolve, alliances with Malaysian cruisecompanies underscore our broader horizon.

Prudent focus characterizes ourinaugural year, with a concentrated thrust on Europe and the GCC. Amid diverseopportunities, this strategic axis forms the bedrock of our expansionendeavors.

 

 

Q4.:Regarding your go-to-marketstrategy, you mentioned the successful utilization of influencer campaignsduring the Modanisa venture. Do you believe that the achievements garneredthrough influencer engagement within that context can be seamlessly replicatedto yield analogous outcomes in the current domain?

Indeed, our influencer-drivenstrategy is proving impactful, evidenced by tangible traction. Leveraging ouragile technology, influencers create microsites under our umbrella. However,this is complemented by Google and Facebook marketing, alongside strategicpartnerships with high-traffic platforms. Our holistic approach meldsinfluencer authenticity with digital prowess and strategic collaborations,propelling our market presence effectively.

 

 

Q5. Segregating your trajectory into segments, what specificobjectives do you foresee achieving within the upcoming 12-month timeframe?

Our journey unfolds with a strategicfocus on Umrah tours, gaining insights through Saudi partnerships.Subsequently, we delve into European tours, accommodating Turkish and Europeantravelers. Accompanying this expansion is a robust accommodation offering,featuring over 100,000 diverse hotels, including halal, family-friendly, and culinary-centricoptions. As we progress, our year ahead is dedicated to further refining ourmultifaceted vision, driven by our commitment to enhancing travel experiencesthrough Salam Booking.

 

Q6. Which additional regions and countries are you activelyseeking to cultivate strategic partnerships with in the coming 12 months andbeyond?

In the coming months, our strategicpartnerships will extend to key regions. Egypt, with its growth potential,holds strategic importance. The UK's robust market and collaborations withinfluencers are pivotal. Curated tours will span from Uzbekistan to Turkey andDubai. While discussions with Uzbekistan are underway, our immediate focusremains Europe, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. These targets underscore our dedicatedapproach for the upcoming year.

Q7. Addressing the commercial aspect of such arrangements, canyou elaborate on the potential incentives or value propositions that SalamBooking leverages when promoting destinations like Uzbekistan, considering theengagement and influence you hold within the Muslim community?

 Absolutely, our engagement extendsbeyond the community, as we position ourselves as an authoritative marketplace.Consider a scenario where you, an expert based in Manchester, aim to cater toMuslim travelers by offering insights into halal restaurants, familyentertainment, and other local attractions. Salam Booking becomes yourplatform, enabling you to showcase your tailored tours and services. Travelersseeking excursions in Manchester can effortlessly discover your offerings,forging a seamless connection.

Our collaboration operates on acommission basis, a win-win arrangement that rewards quality service provision.As you accrue positive reviews and five-star ratings, your prominenceescalates, underscoring your excellence. The intrinsic beauty of thismarketplace lies in its transparency – travelers gain invaluable insights intothe caliber of services you offer, whom you cater to, and your areas ofexpertise. In essence, Salam Booking is not just a platform; it is an avenuethat champions authentic, exceptional experiences while propelling your ventureto the forefront.

 

Q8. Transitioning to investor inquiries, Shazi seeksclarification: Are all the tours currently originating from Istanbul?

No, that's not entirely accurate. Wealso offer tours from the UK through our UK supplier. These tours featureEnglish guidance and have gained popularity, reflecting our commitment todiversified departures beyond Istanbul, including destinations like Turkey andBosnia.

 

Q9.Looking ahead over a span of threeto five years, what is your envisaged trajectory for revenue growth based on yourexisting business plan and strategic vision?

Our immediate target centers aroundachieving a half-million turnover this year. With positive momentum, we aspireto realize a 3-million target next year, fueled by prudent strategies andinvestor collaboration. Looking ahead, our overarching ambition encompasses aremarkable 10-million milestone within three years.

Ali, our approach aligns withactionable measures rather than speculative projections. Like when initiatingModanisa, we pinpointed a genuine need and addressed it with excellence,attracting subsequent resources. Prioritizing service and product qualityremains paramount, fostering organic financial growth. Remarkably, as seen inour journey, ambitions can often escalate beyond forecasts; for instance,reaching 25 million within a single year.

Regarding our immersive vision, weurge you to engage with Salam Booking, regardless of investment. Join ourcommunity, support our cause, and together, let's shape a travel landscape thatresonates with values and experiences we hold dear.

 

Q10. Continuing our financial discussion, could you elucidatethe average profit margins per tour within your operational framework?

Certainly, within our operationalframework, the average profit margin per tour typically ranges from 15%.However, with available funds for hotel accommodations, this margin can extendto 20-22%. On tour-related components, such as transportation and activities,the range spans from 12% to 17%, with an average of 15%. Notably, special arrangements,like private label tours, can yield higher profit rates of up to 25%.

 

Q11. Could you elaborate on Salam Booking's due diligenceprotocol for selecting and partnering with operators? Particularly, in light ofunfavorable experiences reported by certain Umrah pilgrims in the UK, how doesSalam Booking ensure the identification of suitable operators to ensuresuperior customer service delivery? 

Certainly, meticulous due diligenceunderpins our operator selection process. Our initial focus centers on Turkey,collaborating with esteemed firms steeped in up to two decades of Umrah andHajj expertise. This spectrum spans venerable industry stalwarts to agilenewcomers, united by their unwavering commitment to excellence and reliability.

The Saudi government's collaborationenhances our screening process, facilitating the identification of fittingpartners, particularly for vital land services, ensuring seamless travelexperiences.

This stringent selection approachextends globally. Our partnerships encompass diverse offerings, whether it's afive-star Umrah or proximity to Haram. Our core commitment remains unwavering:delivering exceptional service experiences.

Our engagement persistspost-selection. Pre-evaluation precedes partner announcements, enablingmeticulous selection. Ongoing assessment remains pivotal. Deviations from ourstringent criteria prompt swift action, reinforcing our dedication toconsistently superior customer experiences.

 

Q12. How does Salam Booking strategically entice and onboardtravel companies as partners, ensuring collaboration with the best in theindustry?

Undoubtedly, our approach isinherently symbiotic, a synergy that naturally attracts and prevails. With asubstantial customer base, abundant eyeballs, and an engaged visitor community,our platform entices travel companies seeking direct access to these discerningcustomers. This innate alignment encapsulates the essence of a thrivingmarketplace, fostering a harmonious convergence where buyers and sellers unite,mutually benefitting and enhancing satisfaction all around.

 

 Q13. In light of a compelling inquiry, how does Salam Bookingaddress the potential collaboration with non-Muslim countries, drawn by thedemand to cater to Muslim travelers? Have you explored engagement withnon-Muslim nations, and are there specific countries within your pipeline for suchpartnerships?

Certainly, our vision extends tocollaborating with non-Muslim nations recognizing the appeal of Muslimtravelers. Spain, Italy, Japan, and Korea exemplify this trend. These nationsare driven by their Muslim-friendly agenda, fostering a convergence ofinterests. 

Our global reach and substantialvisitor base position us as a magnet, attracting nations seeking to tap intothe Muslim tourism market. Through strategic partnerships with flagshipairlines and tourism authorities, our potential for revenue generation, such assponsorship arrangements, holds promise.

While this avenue is poised forexploration, its full realization aligns with our future trajectory,characterizing Salam Booking's strategic evolution.

 

Q14. Transitioning to the competitive landscape, let's delveinto the distinction between Salam Booking and existing players likebooking.com and halal booking. Could you briefly highlight the differentiatingfactors and elucidate how Salam Booking holds a competitive edge in the market?

Certainly, Halal Booking is acommendable player in this domain, focusing on aiding Muslim travelers inidentifying Muslim-friendly hotels. However, Salam Booking transcends a mereaccommodation platform. We serve as a comprehensive one-stop solution,addressing diverse travel needs. From accommodations to thoughtfully curatedpackage tours and enriching excursions, our platform offers an integratedexperience. We're poised to elevate this further by introducing combined flightand accommodation packages, a strategic move that adds dimension to ourcompetitive advantage.

Importantly, we view Halal Bookingnot merely as a competitor, but also as a collaborator. The potential forsynergy is evident, as we can leverage their inventory of 25 hotels, complementingour offerings. Sharing commissions is a practical approach adopted by othersites in the industry. This spirit of collaboration aligns with the broadertrend in the accommodation sector and signifies a promising avenue for thefuture, fostering a mutually beneficial partnership.

Q15: Turning to potential synergies between Modanisa and SalamBooking, beyond the influence aspect, are there additional avenues forcollaboration or partnerships stemming from Modanisa's robust global brandpresence?

Absolutely, the collaborationbetween Modanisa and Salam Booking transcends influencers. We're poised tointroduce package tours through Modanisa in the near future. This integrationis progressing swiftly and will soon offer travelers an enhanced experience.Furthermore, strategic partnerships with notable entities like Saudi's Bondiand a Pakistani cinema and bus ticket firm are in the works. These initiatives,along with other potential collaborations, underscore our commitment toleveraging synergies and broadening our market presence.

 

Q16. Exploring new avenues, a guest inquired about thepotential for halal ferry tours, catering to the needs of Muslim travelersseeking safe and family-friendly options. Does Salam Booking envision venturinginto this domain, offering Muslims a previously unavailable experience ofsecure and enjoyable ferry tours?

Certainly, the prospect of halalferry tours aligns closely with our ongoing discussions. In fact, we areembarking on a pilot project in river cruises, a prelude to potentiallyexpanding into the halal cruise domain. This endeavor allows travelers totraverse Europe's scenic waterways in a secure and leisurely manner, aninnovative approach to ferry tours.

Undoubtedly, scalability is apivotal consideration. As we amplify our volume, the possibilities expandexponentially. Imaginative offerings emerge, such as orchestrating morningprayer sessions at iconic landmarks like Hagia Sophia in Turkey, followed by atailored breakfast experience. These bespoke offerings cater to Muslimfamilies, couples, and individuals, meeting specific needs.

Moreover, we actively engage withorganizers to nurture similar ideas. Encouraging them to collaborate and craftunique experiences tailored to Muslim preferences, we facilitate their reach toour customer base. The prospect of curating specialized Muslim London tours,complete with halal routes and guided experiences, exemplifies our commitmentto innovative and inclusive travel solutions.

 

Q17. Addressing questions that have arisen in recent minutes,let's delve into the critical factors influencing the success of Salam Booking.Could you elaborate on the key risks and challenges inherent in scaling thebusiness? Furthermore, how do you envision tackling these challenges andsteering the company towards sustained growth and resilience?

Our journey is marked by bothpromise and challenges. The unforeseen emergence of events like COVID-19 hasintroduced unpredictability, requiring us to remain agile and adaptable.Simultaneously, economic fluctuations pose a concern. Our analysis, however,indicates that the market is rebounding post-pandemic, as demonstrated byincreased visitor numbers and revenue.

Central to our strategy isaddressing the gap in the market with a comprehensive suite of tailoredproducts and services. Salam Booking aspires to be the primary destination forMuslim travelers' needs, systematically expanding our offerings.

Our collaborative efforts, bolsteredby your support, are driving a transformative experience. Our expansion acrossdiverse countries acts as a buffer against economic challenges, ensuring we cancapitalize on growth opportunities from various regions.

Despite challenges, our multifacetedapproach, grounded in market insights and global reach, fuels our confidence.We remain committed to overcoming obstacles and propelling Salam Booking towardsustained growth, ushering in an era of enriched travel experiences for theMuslim community.

 

 

Q18. Could you elaborate on the range of holiday optionsavailable, including premium and budget choices, and how you address travelneeds during economic downturns and local travel preferences?

Certainly. Our offerings spanvarious holiday tiers, catering to different preferences and economicconditions. We offer premium and budget-friendly options. In times ofrecession, we provide localized tours. For instance, if you're in Manchester,you could opt for tours within the UK, like a trip to London. We recognize theneed for flexibility and adaptability, considering the diverse array of optionswithin the travel space to suit various traveler preferences.

 

 

Q19. Can you shed light on your provision of child-friendlytours and family-friendly experiences?

Absolutely. We offer child-friendlyhotels and offseason tours. Families with school-age children can benefit fromdiscounted prices during off-peak seasons. For instance, in September, whenschool is not in session, we can provide up to 25% better prices for packagetours. While we currently offer family-friendly options, we are attuned to theevolving needs of our customers. When we identify demand or hear from partnersabout specific requirements, we work closely to design tailored packages thatsuit family and child-friendly preferences, ensuring an enriching travelexperience for all.

Our aim is to coalesce the desiresand solutions from all stakeholders, weaving them into our offerings. Throughdialogue with suppliers, customers, and our team, we gather insights to craftexceptional travel experiences. As the CEO, I've witnessed the collectivecommitment to shaping a bright future for Muslim travelers. Our dedicationextends beyond being a mere platform; we aim to curate solutions that addressthe various complexities and challenges, ensuring a seamless and rewardingjourney for all travelers. Our emphasis is on collaborative innovation,allowing customers to name their needs, and we'll procure the perfect solutionprovider accordingly.

 

Q20. Could you clarify if your tours arecustomizable to accommodate diverse customer interests, or is customizationfinancially constrained? Additionally, how do you plan to track evolvingcustomer preferences, such as sustainable travel, over time?

Absolutely, our approach is centeredon customer feedback and demands. We act as the bridge between customers andtour providers, allowing them to tailor offerings based on specific interests.While we start with a range of tours, our platform's flexibility enables us torapidly expand options. Suppose you're seeking sustainable travel orfamily-oriented experiences. In that case, our system will curate choices thatalign with your preferences. Whether you're a nature enthusiast or a familywith kids, we aim to connect you with suitable tours, accommodations, anddestinations. Our dynamic marketplace evolves to meet changing needs, ensuringyou find tailored and budget-friendly solutions for memorable travelexperiences.

 

Q21. Could you please provide insights into your exit strategy,outlining the anticipated timeline for investors to realize returns upon exitfrom the investment?

Our exit strategy involves twopotential avenues. The first avenue is through an Initial Public Offering(IPO), a path that could be explored in London due to favorable opportunitiesin that market. The second option entails strategic acquisition, where aprominent industry leader could potentially merge with us, synergizing ourstrengths and resources. Both pathways signify opportunities for investors torealize returns on their investment.

 

Q22. Can you provide insights into the current valuation andshed light on the factors that contribute to its determination?

The current valuation of the companystands at $5.6 million, reflecting a 10% increase from the previous valuationof $4.9 million, which was recorded six months ago. This change can beattributed to our efforts and progress, including the addition of 360,000listings. Our continuous growth and strategic initiatives contribute to thisupward trajectory in valuation.

 

Q23. Providing context, how would you compare this valuation toother recent deals, considering that WahedX has generally seen highervaluations in the past 10 deals? This seems to present an excellent chance forearly investors to get involved. Furthermore, with the potential for futuregrowth and the possibility of avenues like IPO and secondary exits as thecompany expands, would you agree, Kerim?

This valuation strategy aligns withour focus on practical growth and value. In comparison to previous deals,including those involving WahedX, our valuation may seem conservative. However,it offers a remarkable opportunity for early investors to enter at anadvantageous position. Just to provide some context, when I initiated Modanisa11 years ago, I secured $10 million from scratch with no deductions. It's atestament to our prudent approach and the potential for significant returns aswe progress.

 

Q24.Do you provide avenues forindependent curators to curate and present specialized tours on your platform,or is the creation of tour offerings primarily managed centrally by yourorganization?

We warmly welcome independentcurators to contribute tailored tours on our platform. These collaborations areintegral to our strategy, as we gradually expand our offerings.

Our technology is well-equipped forthis purpose, with a focus on connectivity and seamless integration. We'veestablished partnerships with over 2,200 providers, including enhanced paymentgateways. Notably, our Turkish integration streamlines payments. 

User experience is paramount. Oursoftware facilitates dynamic packaging, enabling customers to craftpersonalized itineraries by combining flights, tours, and accommodations. Thisadaptability is complemented by a diverse product range.

Our platform excels not only infunctionality but also in user engagement. The synergy of independent curatorsand technology forms our thriving ecosystem. This synergy embodies innovation,flexibility, and seamless interaction, creating a space where unique toursflourish.

 

Q25. Could you provide insights into the role of microinfluencers and micro sites within your go-to-market strategy? Specifically, how do these elements contribute to your overall approach, and what impact haveyou observed?

Micro influencers and micro sitesare pivotal in our go-to-market strategy, offering prime avenues to engagec ustomers. These influencers also double as travel providers, akin to onlinetravel agents. An illustrative example involves merging destination, hotel, and flight bookings into shareable itineraries, enhancing collaborative tripplanning. Additionally, individuals like Ali can monetize by creating personalized pages, synergizing user engagement with financial gains. Thisharmonious integration amplifies engagement, fosters community exploration, anddrives economic growth.

 

Q26.In a parallel context to the UK, where sheikhs adeptly lead Hajj, Umrah, and halal journeys, is there potentialfor them to establish micro sites?

Absolutely, your idea is exciting.It's about connecting with the right people to reach bigger audiences. Think ofpassionate designers in Turkey who went global through Modanisa, reaching 130countries. Similarly, sheikhs could use micro sites to expand beyond Manchesterand engage the whole UK, even internationally without language barriers. Thisshift has the power to broaden reach and impact, fostering deep connections andenriching spiritual journeys.

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Maydan Capital Limited, trading as Wahed Ventures and/or WahedX, is registered in England and Wales (Company No. 13451691), registered office: 87-89 Baker Street, London, W1U 6RJ, UK. Maydan Capital Ltd (FRN: 963613) is an appointed representative of Wahed Invest Ltd (FRN: 833225), an authorised and regulated firm by the Financial Conduct Authority.