Top destinations for Muslim travellers

SINGAPORE, 2 June 2023: Indonesia and Malaysia have emerged as the top two destinations globally for Muslim travellers in the newly released Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2023.

The annual report, now in its eighth year, analyses data across nearly 140 countries to offer comprehensive insights into which destinations best meet the needs of the increasingly influential Halal travel segment.

The Halal travel demographic is a sizeable market segment globally. According to the GMTI, Muslim international arrivals hit 110 million in 2022 and are forecast to reach 140 million this year. By 2028, Muslim arrivals are expected to hit 230 million, with a projected expenditure of USD225 billion.

Currently, Asia leads the way for arrivals, with more than 31% of all travellers to this region identifying as Muslim.

Indonesia and Malaysia, which scored equally in the index this year, have long been popular destinations for Muslim tourists; Indonesia had previously topped the ranking in the 2019 report, while Malaysia has consistently been at the forefront of the GMTI since 2015. Singapore ranked 12th, making it only one of two countries (along with the United Kingdom) outside the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to rank in the top 20.

The index assesses destinations across four key criteria: Access, Communications, Environment, and Services (ACES). Southeast Asian destinations ranked among the top 10 on all four of these criteria, while in the aggregate, Indonesia and Malaysia both scored 73 (out of a possible 100), Singapore scored 64, Thailand achieved a score of 52, and the Philippines 46.

The report also found that global travel behaviours are impacting trends among Muslim travellers, with the demographic increasingly: incorporating sustainability into their travel; opting for destinations and activities to improve their health and wellness; finding opportunities for immersive experiences and authenticity; incorporating personal development into their travel plans.

“While by no means a monolith, Muslim travellers are often looking for their travel plans to align with certain faith-oriented criteria, such as availability of Halal foods, rooms for prayer, and encouraging communications and messaging from destinations,” said CrescentRating founder and CEO Fazal Bahardeen.

“Over the years we’ve conducted this research, we’ve consistently seen markets that prioritise these requirements perform well among Muslim travellers, and so it is our hope that the 2023 edition offers insights that will allow destinations to garner more understanding, more inclusivity, and ultimately, a closer relationship with this demographic.”

Mastercard division president, Southeast Asia Safdar Khan said: “Mastercard is a longstanding partner of CrescentRating, with both organisations sharing the same commitment in using data and insights to create more relevant solutions and unearth new economic opportunities. With the travel industry already exceeding pre-pandemic levels of growth, the GMTI shows how faith-based travellers have evolved in their needs and how these needs can be better met to create more resilient tourism offerings. Mastercard is confident that the GMTI will help to bolster the ongoing recovery and lay the foundations for future growth in the Muslim travel sector.”

The GMTI has grown considerably since its first iteration in 2011, when it was initially known as the Crescentrating Annual Ranking and assessed only the top 10 Muslim-friendly destinations. Now, the report encompasses 138 destinations globally and offers comprehensive insights into everything from travel document requirements to faith-aligned sustainability practices.

The latest edition of GMTI offers four new tools that offer insights and recommendations regarding this demographic:

Muslim Travel Intent Tracker (MTIT): This metric considers various time frames, from immediate travel plans to those planned over a year in advance, to capture the dynamic and evolving preferences of the Muslim traveller market.

Muslim Traveler Responsible Tourism Framework: Offers a holistic approach to help Muslim travellers make mindful choices that promote sociocultural, socio-economic, and environmental sustainability while upholding the values of the faith.

GMTI Performance Matrix (GPM): By incorporating the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) scores and the percentage of Muslim visitors to overall visitors, the GPM provides a comprehensive overview of destinations’ ability to cater to Muslim travellers and their success in attracting this growing market segment.

Muslim Women Friendly Destinations: Features destinations worldwide that provide a welcoming and comfortable experience for Muslim women travellers, considering factors such as safety, faith restrictions and sustainability within the Environment criteria of the ACES model.

About CrescentRating

CrescentRating is the leading authority on Halal travel and tourism. The company uses insights, industry intelligence, lifestyle, behaviour and research on the needs of the Muslim traveller to deliver authoritative guidance on all aspects of Halal travel to organisations across the globe. Founded in 2008, CrescentRating services are used by every tier of the tourism industry, from government bodies and tourism agencies to hospitality service providers, to serve the needs of the Muslim traveller better.