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Southeast Asia is the World’s Leading Muslim Tourist Destination

According to the latest report by the Mastercard-Crescent Rating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI), Indonesia and Malaysia tied for the top spot among 145 destinations in the world. 

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According to the latest report by the Mastercard-Crescent Rating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI), Indonesia and Malaysia tied for the top spot among 145 destinations in the world. 

Singapore also performed well among non Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) destinations for the ninth consecutive year, underscoring its unwavering dedication to catering to Muslim travellers through the widespread availability of Halal food, prayer facilities, suitable airport amenities, and Muslim-friendly accommodation.

According to the report, the Muslim travel market is set for a significant uptick this year, with global international arrivals potentially reaching up to 168 million, exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 5%. This volume growth highlights the segment’s rising prominence, driven by demographic and economic expansion, cultural and Halal tourism development, and technological advancements that enable more personalised travel experiences for Muslim travellers, such as apps that locate Halal food outlets, Qibla directions, and prayer timings. The impact of artificial intelligence is also helping further customise travel experiences to simplify travel logistics while adhering to faith traditions.

Retaining their joint top position as the leading OIC destinations for Muslim travellers for the second consecutive year, Indonesia and Malaysia scored favourably on ease of entry and quality of tourism infrastructure for both Muslim and non-Muslim travellers.

Thailand maintained its position in the top five non-OIC destinations owing to efforts to promote Halal tourism, such as increasing Halal food availability, integrating Muslim-friendly amenities at tourist spots, and enhancing accommodation and dining options for Muslim travellers. 

Meanwhile, the Philippines recorded an increase in its communication score compared to 2023. Among non-OIC destinations, the Philippines has steadily increased its appeal to Muslim tourists by strategically developing its Halal Tourism portfolio, enhancing halal accreditation of hotels and restaurants, and conducting Halal awareness orientations. This effort builds on their achievement of winning the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination of the Year award in last year’s Halal in Travel Global Summit, based on GMTI 2023 results. 

GMTI, now in its ninth year, analyses data across 145 destinations using the ACES framework, built around Access, Communication, Environment, and Services metrics.

Over time, the criteria have evolved to keep pace with the changing needs of Muslim travellers. This year, new metrics on the availability of facilities and services for travellers with disabilities were added to the model.

According to CrescentRating  CEO Fazal Bahardeen, it is encouraging to see that the travel sectors in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore not only maintained their rankings in this year’s GMTI, but also improved their individual scores.

“This reflects a broader trend of increased consideration for Muslim travellers, with average scores across the Index rising by ten percent. It is also positive to see the Philippines continue to improve its score, which demonstrates the unwavering commitment of the Department of Tourism to bolstering Muslim-friendly tourism and advancing the destination’s appeal,” says Bahardeen.”

Co-sponsor of the report, Mastercard Division President, Southeast Asia Safdar Khan says that according to the latest report from the Mastercard Economics Institute (MEI), travellers from and to Southeast Asia are becoming increasingly focused on getting the best value from their trips to ensure the most unforgettable experiences, a shift echoed in the rapidly growing global Halal tourism industry.

“Technology is helping this demographic travel in ways that meet their unique needs, from AI-powered hyper-personalised experiences to Mastercard’s enablement of easy and secure cross-border payments. Together, this heralds a new level of convenience for Muslim travellers and unlocks a new era of growth and profitability for travel operators. Mastercard’s long-running collaboration with CrescentRating is both a testament to the strength of the partnership and the ongoing importance of understanding and serving Muslim travellers,” says Khan.

Notes from the Editor: This feature has been edited from its original publication here 

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