Elena Nikolova is the "Muslim Travel Girl" ✈️
Elena Nikolova has been an authority in the Halal travel realm for quite some time. After learning the in's and out's of travel hacking (getting the best deals all while traveling in style), she decided to share all the knowledge she had gained and created MuslimTravelGirl.com. Elena is often invited to major Halal travel conferences all around the world, sharing her expertise and insights with a touch of excitement and style.
We've been honored to interview her, and she shares what motivated her blog, halal travel insights, and advice for Muslim women travelers. Enjoy!
HS: What encouraged you to start MuslimTravelGirl?
MTG: MuslimTravelGirl started so it can encourage Muslims to travel. As I come from a very multicultural background and grew up in the travel industry I knew it was very important for me. After I became Muslim I realized that not many Muslims travel. That as women we are not encouraged to do this. I loved traveling, finding the best deals available and managing amazing trips on a student budget. Over time this evolved into loyalty programs in a Muslim friendly manner. This comes from my Islamic finance degree and encouraging Muslims to be happy and proud of their identity while exploring Allah's beautiful world. That’s what makes us today the largest Western Muslim friendly travel site and we couldn’t be more proud.
HS: Why do you feel it's important to encourage others to travel and try new things?
MTG: I believe it's important as I feel that only with traveling and actually experiencing things you become more tolerant, break barriers and understand others viewpoints.
HS: Where is your favorite travel destination and why?
MTG: Oh, this is a question I get asked all the time and sadly I don’t have the answer. I love so many places and each other of them is unique. I can’t say 'x' is better because I know 'y' had these amazing experiences too. Plus it narrows down the perspective of travel. 😊
HS: Where do you see the global Halal travel industry going in the future?
MTG: The halal travel industry is still a baby and hasn’t learned to crawl and explore. We are still in the phase of sticking to routine. Hopefully with time we will see amazing things coming towards the Muslim community of travelers. I remember 4 years ago when I started, there was nobody talking about Muslim travel and everyone thought I was crazy. Looking back now, it’s amazing how far we have come and how much more we can do.
HS: Being from Europe, how is the Halal travel market there and what do you think are some missing components that could take it to the next level?
MTG: I think there are still a lot of things to be done in Europe in terms of catering to Muslims. But companies are waking up to the demand and seeing the potential. One thing I strongly believe is that change will come from the consumer demanding their rights and to be acknowledged. We are starting to see this. When you demand quality service, destinations catering to your faith and then parting with your cash, you are sending a message to the industry to take you more seriously.
HS: What are some next steps for MTG?
MTG: There are a few exciting things coming up on MTG, not only in terms of content but branching out to other aspects of travel. I can’t wait to actually finalize and share with all soon inshaAllah.
HS: Where are some places you've never traveled to but dying to experience? Why?
MTG: I love travelling to exotic destinations. I love the sea and the sun and I usually try to always have a private pool holiday once a year. One of my all time favorite destinations to visit (apart from the whole world) is the French Polynesia. Since I love ticking bucket lists this won’t take me long inshaAllah :)
HS: What's MTG's ideal audience? Who are you all's biggest fans?
MTG: Oh, I love my audience! Majority of my audience are Muslim millennials, educated and ready to explore - looking for that edgy difference. I write a lot about Umrah travel as I am super passionate about helping Muslims go for Umrah for less. I have a course and wrote a book on it. Also a large percentage of my readers are actually non-Muslims who like my perspective on things. In general, I can say my audience are a mixture of Muslim and non-Muslim millennial travelers, and I wouldn't like it any other way.
HS: How is it traveling as a women these days? Have things become more accommodating for women? How so?
MTG: I think traveling as a woman is very much improving. I am seeing a lot of young Muslim girls traveling solo and I love how they take on this big step. It shapes our views and opinions so much. One of the things I see happening, especially in many Western countries, is accommodating floors for women solo travelers. Even in Dubai they have started with this concept. It might not be something for everyone but it just makes it a little safer, or better in terms of service.
HS: What recommendations do you have for women who would like to travel but are weary about traveling alone, safety and the likes?
MTG: Just do it. If you take the standard precautions, planned a trip to a"safe" country, and made all necessary arrangements, then I'd say go for it. I am now married but I used to travel by myself a lot previously and I always enjoyed that experience. You learn so much about yourself and others. Women should not be stopped of exploring just because of their gender because there is such a big world out there!