by AZALEA AZUAR / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
MALAYSIA has maintained its top spot as the preferred halal tourist destination in the MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2022 and also won the “Top Muslim-Friendly Destination of the Year (OIC)” at the Halal in Travel Awards.
The country is known for its accessibility to a wide range of halal food, pristine beaches, diverse culture and incredible shopping experience as well as offering a wide range of Muslim-friendly tour packages for tourists to enjoy its history, mosque architecture, heritage, gastronomy, nature, arts and culture.
According to Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri (picture), she feels honoured that the country remains dedicated to advocating for Muslim-friendly Tourism and Hospitality.
“As reported by CrescentRating, international Muslim travellers showed strong growth before the pandemic — with 108 million Muslim travellers in 2013 — increasing to 160 million in 2019.
“There is reason to believe that the Muslim travel market will pick up again now that global borders are reopening, with a forecast of 230 million Muslims travelling by 2028,” she said in her keynote address during the Halal in Travel Global Summit 2022 yesterday.
Currently, the global Muslim population stands at 1.9 billion people worldwide.
Before the pandemic, the Islamic tourism industry has contributed a total of RM16.72 billion with 5.3 million international arrivals in 2019 and Nancy will continue to focus on attracting this market as Malaysia’s top destination through government and industry stakeholders.
The insights of GMTI 2022 have also revealed that sustainability is a key trend among tourists, which is not only restricted to the environment.
“Ultimately, in this day and age, tourism isn’t just about making travellers feel good, but it’s about the transformative potential of tourism to everyone who has a stake in this industry — everyone from the tourist, investor, industry player, community, government, country, and more.
“After all, tourism should not be for the benefit of one party and the detriment of others,” Nancy added.
Islamic tourism reflects the value and values of the new tourism landscape as it promotes sustainability in many forms — from economic, social and spiritual sustainability, to environmental, cultural and heritage sustainability — as there are many verses in the Quran which remind Muslims to be careful with the consequences of our actions.
Therefore, she hopes that industry players can adopt Islamic tourism and its Muslim-friendly branding as a strategy for tourism growth.
“We also see the role of technology in the future of Islamic tourism. As travellers become savvier with technology and demand information at their fingertips, there is potential for digital applications and new technology growth within this market.
“Travel technology will help Muslims around the world to identify halal food, get prayer times notifications, download Muslim-friendly entertainment on-the-go, and create Muslim-friendly trip itinerary suggestions from their mobile devices before and during their travels,” Nancy added.
Meanwhile, CrescentRating and HalalTrip CEO Fazal Bahardeen also indicated that Malaysia’s top ranking is also closely followed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia which are all tied in second place.
Uzbekistan managed to reach ninth place while the top four non-OIC destinations are Singapore, Taiwan, UK and Thailand which remain the same.
“Gen Z, Millennials and women are the most influential and growing demographic within the Muslim population. Seventy percent of the estimated population of two billion are under 40 years old with Gen Z and Millennials representing 50% of the population,” he said in the report.
Female travellers also represent one of the fastest-growing segments in halal tourism as they make up 45% of international Muslim arrivals.
On the other hand, PT Mastercard Indonesia country manager Navin Jain added that travel recovery in Asia is quickly booming as consumers have been releasing excessive savings on travel and some Asian countries have been relaxing their Covid-19 travel requirements.
The upward trend will continue over the coming weeks.
“Just to give an example, the flight bookings from Australia to Indonesia have spiked nearly 200% so far in 2022 and flights to the US have more than doubled.
So, we are seeing a big, big swing of travel spending,” he said.
Jain has also observed that more tourists prefer to spend on experiences rather than material things when travelling which is also seen in Asia.
Singapore has recorded the highest international tourist spending on experiences in destinations at an international level with a 60% increase from pre-pandemic levels.
“People so far have been favouring the travel destinations that are less complex to navigate amid confusing entry and quarantine requirements, travel restrictions, testing procedures, etc.
“Now this trend is likely to result in a shift to intra-regional travel as restrictions are relaxed and domestic travel also picks up once again.”