The Muslim travel market will rebound to 80% of 2019 levels by 2023 as COVID-19 becomes a part of daily life by next year and vaccinations enable tourism, forecasts CrescentRating.
The Muslim-friendly travel consultancy’s forecast is in line with a United Nations report last month that sees international arrivals stagnating this year and rebounding in 2023. The U.N. estimated the crash in international tourism led to a loss of $2.4 trillion in 2020.
In the Muslim travel sector, the number of Muslim arrivals dropped to 42 million last year from an all-time high of an estimated 160 million in 2019, said CrescentRating in its annual Global Muslim Travel Index released on Wednesday (July 14).
More than 90% of the 42 million arrivals were in the first quarter of 2020 before most countries closed their borders.
The biggest Muslim outbound markets in 2019, led by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, Kuwait, and Indonesia, primarily started suspending flights and closing airports in March last year.
CrescentRating forecasts Muslim arrivals to reach 26 million this year as international borders open up gradually in the latter part of 2021.
The complexion of the industry will change as vaccinations are required for travel and tourism becomes more personalised with smaller numbers and re-designed visitor experiences, according to CrescentRating.
The consultancy sees travel bubbles between destinations becoming possible this year and in 2022 as COVID-19 management advances.
By 2023, it forecasts new experiences as new routes open up, with travel becoming “redefined based on building communities between destinations”.
“Top Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) destinations which score favourably in their level of travel readiness against COVID-19 have the potential to form unique travel bubbles and build new communities between Muslim travelers from both regions,” said CrescentRating.
“There is also more potential to build new travel experiences between OIC and non-OIC destinations which are ready to welcome travelers.”
Despite the pandemic, the ranking of destinations for their Muslim-friendly facilities and services has remained largely the same as 2019.
Malaysia retains the leader position, while Turkey and Saudi Arabia climb one rung up each to reach second and third, respectively. Indonesia dropped three places to fourth.
“[T]he foundations that destinations have been putting in place for a number of years remain ready to be activated as travel reopens,” according to CrescentRating.
Singapore is still the top non-Islamic destination, standing at sixth in the top 20 overall.
Taiwan and the UK are the next leading non-Islamic countries. Taiwan leaps three places to joint twenty-fifth with the UK that rose by one position.
The top non-Islamic destinations, such as Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, South Africa and Japan, continued to do some level of passive marketing to the Muslim market during the pandemic, said CrescentRating.
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