Malaysia and Singapore have topped the list of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and non-OIC markets respectively for the third consecutive year, according to the Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2017.
The GMTI, which covers 130 destinations, saw Malaysia keep its top spot while Indonesia moved up to third place in the overall rankings.
Meanwhile, Singapore retained its pole position for the non-OIC destinations, followed by other Asian countries in the top five: Thailand (2nd), Hong Kong (5th) and Japan (6th).
On the combined overall list, Singapore remains the only non-OIC destination in top 10. A number of non-OIC destinations in Asia also moved up the rankings, a result of their concerted efforts to adapt their services to cater to and attract the Muslim travel market.
Indonesia, Japan and Taiwan made the biggest improvements in the overall top 10 ranking.
As a whole, Asia remains the world's most attractive region to Muslim tourists with an average GMTI score of 57.6, followed by Africa (47), Oceania (43.8), Europe (39.9) and the Americas (33.7) respectively.
As well, research also showed that the Muslim travel sector is estimated to grow to US$220 billion in 2020 and US$300 billion by 2026.
From the estimated 121 million in 2016 – up from 117 million in 2015 – Muslim visitor arrivals are forecasted to grow to 156 million visitors by 2020 to represent10 per cent of the travel segment.
Fazal Bahardeen, CEO of CrescentRating and HalalTrip, said: “We are definitely seeing the influence of a new breed of young travellers, millennials and Gen Z who are combining technology with a real desire to explore the world while still adhering to their faith-based needs. They will be the driving force for the next phase of growth.”
Safdar Khan, Mastercard’s division president, Indonesia, Malaysia & Brunei, added: “With an overall expenditure of around US$155 billion in 2016, the Muslim travel market remains a strong driver for the continued growth in travel across the world. It’s constantly evolving with major forces such as changing demographics and digitisation shaping the way the industry is progressing.”