Written by Emanuela Lertora
The Muslim travel market continues to be one of the fastest-growing segments in the global travel industry.
The Global Muslim Travel Index, which is the most comprehensive research on the halal travel and hospitality sector produced by MasterCard-CrescentRating, estimated that in 2015 there were 117 million international Muslim travelers—which is 10% of the overall industry. This figure is expected to reach 168 million by 2020 (rising to 11% of the global total), with revenue generated by the Muslim travel segment to top USD 200 billion.
This year, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is listed on the top 10 preferred destinations for Muslim travelers.
Thanks to its ability to cater to the needs of this segment, which include, for example, the availability of halal food, prayer facilities and family-friendly environment, the UAE is expected to rank second by 2022 and first by 2027.
THE PROFILE OF A MUSLIM TRAVELER
The behavior and the profile of Muslim travelers have changed over the last two decades. Today’s Muslim travelers are not looking just for destinations that take into account their specific needs, but they are increasingly looking for high levels of services and safety.
Destinations that are looking to attract Muslim travelers, and industry operators, should provide at least some of these facilities, if they want to win this market segment.
- Family-Friendly Destination: More than 50% of Muslim tourists travel with their families. Some Muslims would prefer to avoid facilities that serve alcohol, have discotheques or that are adjacent to a gambling center.
- General Safety: A safe and secure environment is key to attracting any tourist to a destination. The last 12 months have seen a heightened level of security concerns among travelers.
- Halal Food: For Muslim tourists, halal food is their primary concern when travelling.
- Prayer Facilities: Prayer is one of the central elements of Islamic practice. About 63% of Muslims perform the five daily prayers while travelling; therefore, having a prayer room will increase the chance of attracting more halal tourists.
- Water-usage Friendly Washrooms: Physical cleanliness is stressed as an essential component of being a Muslim. As such, special attention is given to hygiene in the washroom. This entails the use of water in the toilets, as it is discomforting for Muslim travelers when the set-up for water use is not available. Another important consideration is the cleansing ritual that Muslims perform before prayers. This requires the prayer rooms to have foot-washing facilities.
- Ramadan Services: Destinations looking to attract Muslim travelers during Ramadan must be able to accommodate their special needs during the month of fasting. One such example is catering of pre-dawn halal meals by hotels.
- Recreational Facilities and Services with Privacy: A sub-segment of Muslim travelers also is looking for recreational facilities that provide privacy for males and females, such as swimming pools, beaches and gyms with separate areas for males and females to enjoy leisure activities in privacy.
KEY DRIVERS FOR MUSLIM TRAVEL MARKET GROWTH
Now, let’s take a closer look at the key factors responsible for growth in demand of halal tourism. These are the main reasons why the Muslim travel and leisure market will be booming in the years to come:
- Growing Muslim Population: The Muslim population is growing rapidly and is expected to make up 26% of the world’s population by 2030. This translates to one out of three people born between 1990 and 2030 being Muslim.
- Growing Middle Class / Disposable Income: Countries with a large Muslim populations experienced a growth of the middle class and, consequently, an increase of disposable income for the Muslim consumer base.
- Increasing Access to Travel Information: The proliferation of Internet access coupled with high penetration of smartphones have made travel planning easier in general. Muslim-majority countries, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are among the top countries when it comes to smartphone penetration.
- Younger Population: With a median age of 23 years (data from 2010 by Pew), Muslims are a young population. A younger more technologically-savvy population also means more Muslims are active on social media and use it to get information and are actively influencing the travel planning of their family holidays.
- Increasing Availability of Muslim-Friendly Travel Services and Facilities: The last few years have seen many businesses and destinations beginning to adapt their products and services to cater to Muslim travelers. This has meant that there is an increasing availability of Muslim-friendly services.
TOP 10 DESTINATIONS FOR MUSLIM HOLIDAYMAKERS
OIC: Organization of Islamic Cooperation
Data from 2016 Global Muslim Travel Index, produced by MasterCard and the Singapore-based halal ratings firm CrescentRating.