Indonesia has for the first time joined Malaysia to take up the top spot on the Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2019, while Singapore retained its premier position as the top Muslim-friendly non-Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) destination for Muslim travellers.
Climbing up from number two, Indonesia now shares the pole position with Malaysia, with a score of 78 on the GMTI, a reflection of the sustained efforts by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism to invest in its tourism and travel industry, and develop Muslim-tourist friendly infrastructure.
Other OIC countries including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Oman and Brunei continue to be popular with Muslim tourists. These destinations can continue to reap the benefits of their inherently Muslim-friendly environment by leveraging new technologies to strategically build services that better engage young, millennial Muslim travellers, the report stated.
Among non-OIC countries, Singapore, Thailand, the UK, Japan and Taiwan have retained their positions in the top five and have further improved their scores on the Index. In a first for South Korea and the Philippines, these countries have entered the top 10 non-OIC destinations, displacing Germany and Australia. Spain has also entered the list of top 10 non-OIC countries, emerging as a key halal-friendly European destination for Muslim travellers this year.
In an effort to attract more Muslim tourists, non-OIC destinations have been much more active, as compared with some OIC destinations, in developing their capacity and capability to attract Muslim travellers. For example, destinations such as Spain, South Korea and the Philippines have developed useful resources and travel guides that cater to Muslim preferences by listing best halal restaurants and nearby prayer facilities.
The GMTI tracks the health and growth of 130 destinations globally, within and outside the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in four strategic areas – access, communications, environment and services.
In 2018, there were an estimated 140 million Muslim visitors worldwide – up from 131 million in 2017 – representing 10 per cent of the global travel industry.
The Muslim travel market is one of the fastest -rowing tourism sectors in the world, but despite its huge potential, remains relatively untapped. By 2026, the halal travel sector’s contribution to the global economy is expected to jump 35 per cent to US$300 billion, up from US$220 billion in 2020. By that time, Muslim visitors globally are forecast to grow to 230 million visitors, to represent more than 10 percent of tourists worldwide.
The halal travel market has undergone significant changes in recent years. Driven by the rapid pace of digital and technological transformation, a new phase of Muslim travel is emerging, one that is defined by experience and connectivity – Halal Travel 2.0 – which leverages technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality, to better engage Muslim travellers in the digital age.