Muslim-friendly travel pioneer CrescentRating on Tuesday launched its annual Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) with a new Halal Travel Development Goals focus as the industry moves into what the company says is a “new phase” defined by “experience and connectivity”.
In the fifth year of the MasterCard-CrescentRating GMTI, 130 Islamic and non-Islamic countries are ranked on the strength of their Muslim-friendliness for travelers, based on a set of criteria that broadly cover access, communications, environment and services.
Without disclosing its methodology, the report estimates that 140 million Muslims traveled in 2018, up from 131 million in 2017. It projects this number to reach 230 million by 2026.
The report estimates that the halal travel sector’s contribution to the global economy will be $220 billion in 2020 and projects this to surge to $300 billion by 2026. However, it does not disclose how it arrives at these numbers.
Overall, the report’s data sources include the World Travel and Tourism Council, the WEF’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
Singapore once again tops the index for non-Islamic countries and for the first time in the history of the GMTI, Malaysia shares top spot, among Islamic countries, with Indonesia.
In a media statement, CrescentRating said Indonesia has risen in the ranks “through the sustained efforts by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism to invest in its tourism and travel industry, and develop Muslim-friendly infrastructure.”
Indonesia’s step up one rung on the index comes in spite of the country missing its halal tourism targets last year.
In January, Riyanto Sofyan, chairman of Indonesia’s Team for Accelerated Development of Halal Tourism told Salaam Gateway the country’s Muslim-friendly travel sector missed its 2018 targets in areas including share of foreign exchange contribution to GDP, number of halal-certified hotels, and increase in dedicated industry workforce.
Sofyan said at the time that Indonesia would be reformulating its strategy to boost the sector.
Regardless, Indonesia has done enough, according to the GMTI 2019, to push ahead as joint leader with Malaysia on the Islamic countries rankings.
NEW DEVELOPMENT GOALS FOCUS
This year’s GMTI introduces five ‘Halal Travel Development Goals’ that CrescentRating believes are needed for businesses to grow as the industry moves into what it calls ‘Halal Travel 2.0’.
The five “holistic goals”, according to CrescentRating, are Integration, Diversity and Faith; Heritage, Culture and Connection; Education, Insights and Capabilities; Industry, Innovation and Trade; Well-being and Sustainable Tourism.
Where ‘Halal Travel 1.0’ covered the basic needs of Muslim travelers, such as availability of halal food and beverages and prayer facilities, ‘Halal Travel 2.0’ is a result of what the report says is “the rapid pace of technological innovation, rising fervor of social activism and changing demographics of travelers worldwide.”
“To better engage with Muslim travelers in this new climate amidst the fourth industrial revolution, it is important for destinations and services to connect with the market on a deeper level,” says the GMTI 2019.
“This requires the synergy of both smart technologies, such as AI, and skilled hospitality professionals familiar with the needs of Muslim travelers,” it adds.
STRATEGIES FOR BUSINESSES
The report highlights seventeen key halal travel trends for this year that businesses can capitalise on, and points out the elements that are “need to have”, “good to have”, and “nice to have” to serve Muslim travelers.
The key trends include a heightened awareness of social causes while exploring destinations, augmented reality reconnecting Muslim travelers with lost Islamic heritage, and a growing wave of non-Islamic countries in the Muslim-friendly travel industry.
(Writing by Emmy Abdul Alim [email protected])
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