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Halijah Travels Pte Ltd


22 Kandahar Street, Singapore 198886

A Legacy of Safe Travels

Name of business:Halijah Travels Pte Ltd
Business location:22 Kandahar Street, Singapore 198886
Business type:Travel Agency

Halijah Travels Pte Ltd is a travel agency that focuses on organising the religious pilgrimages of the Hajj (main pilgrimage and one of the pillars of Islam) and the Umrah (minor pilgrimage). The business was started by Ms Halijah in the 1980s, who saw that such travel services were not readily available in Singapore and sought to help pilgrims. Today, the agency is managed by her brothers, and it has continuously evolved to cater to the needs of its customers.

A pair of gold-plated camels carrying a pilgrim each sits within a black signboard, with the company’s name etched in gold in both English and Jawi. Under this signboard is a beautifully carved wood panel above the entrance of Halijah Travels. The interior of Halijah Travels is sprinkled with thoughtful decorative details alluding to its Muslim heritage. Each service counter is separated by carved wooden partitions. An old mechanical clock hangs on the centre of the shop’s back wall. These decorative elements in the shop’s interior and exterior conjure a picture of travels to faraway places and the pilgrimages to the Holy City of Mecca, Saudi Arabia – which is also the very reason this business was founded.

Halijah travels was Established in the 1980s by Ms Halijah, the late sister of the current co-owner and general manager, Mr Haffidz Abdul Hamid. Halijah saw an opportunity to offer a unique travel service for pilgrims performing the Hajj, a service that was not readily available in Singapore back then. In the beginning, she provided the service part-time and eventually turned it into a full-time business. In 1991, the business was registered as a travel agent with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), to comply with the statutory requirements of the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) for Hajj brokers who organised the Hajj.

Running Halijah Travels was not Haffidz’s first choice of a career. He was working at a statutory board until his sister passed on in February 1997. Upon his father’s suggestion, Haffidz and his brother rose to the occasion to pick up where their sister had left off. “It’s a family business,” says Haffidz who operates the agency with his brother. “When she passed away then, we took over the business to continue her good work.” Haffidz has since grown into this role but acknowledges the challenging responsibilities that come with managing a business. This includes growing market competition as well as managing customers’ expectations and catering to their needs. These considerations aside, circumstances that are beyond his control posed a bigger challenge–it is relatively difficult to manage things when unexpected problems arise for customers as they travel overseas. “We still got to manage them; learn as you go on.”

Over the years, Halijah Travels has adapted and adjusted to the changing circumstances. The rise of online booking systems and technologies have changed the way people travel. Up to 70% of the business is related to the Umrah or the Hajj, with the remaining catering to general travels and tours to different parts of the world. Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a harsh blow to the travel industry. At the same time, the pandemic has also allowed Halijah Travel’s staff to acquire new skillsets—they are now able to provide value-added services and advice on new travel requirements and uncertainties, even to its most travel-savvy customers. With the lifting of travel restrictions across the world, Haffidz observed that some of his customers now see value in consulting his travel agents. They are more assured to have a travel agent who can provide updated advice, beyond the usual management of bookings and arrangements. “Sometimes they [consumers] call you, they ask for advice …they book on their own. That’s how it is. But for the pilgrimage, Hajj and Umrah, most customers still need you because certain things they want you to organise.” Halijah Travels also caters to the needs of non-Malay speaking Muslims, such as organising classes related to the Hajj and Umrah in English.

After more than 25 years in the trade, Haffidz enjoys being a travel agent and appreciates working in Kampong Gelam due to its rich heritage. Originally located in the Golden Landmark Shopping Centre, Halijah Travels moved to Kandahar Street in 2001. Haffidz stresses that Kampong Gelam was chosen for its historical and religious significance. During the period between the late 19th century and the 1970s, Malaysian and Indonesian pilgrims in addition to Singapore based pilgrims, would gather at Kampong Gelam before they set off for the Hajj in Mecca. Although pilgrims no longer go through the precinct for the Hajj, traces of this route’s history live on. “It’s got a historical significance,” Haffidz says, referring to Kampong Gelam’s legacy as a centre for the Hajj. “And then, as far as heritage is concerned, this is where it is - the religious and cultural heart of the Malay world in Singapore.”

As social and cultural circumstances continue to evolve, Haffidz believes that his business must continuously adapt to provide relevant services for their customers while retaining certain traditions. For example, social media, while informative and convenient, can prove to be both overwhelming for those travelling overseas, particularly those travelling to Saudi Arabia for their pilgrimages. This is where his agency’s sound advice, based on substantial experience over the years in managing customers and their expectations, would prove useful.

In the spirit of upholding the heritage of the business, Haffidz hopes that Halijah Travels will be continued by the next generation.

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