March 03, 2015
CrescentRating is the world’s leading authority on Halal-friendly travel. 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-friendly travel to organizations across the globe.
Formed in 2008, CrescentRating services are now used by every tier of the tourism industry globally, from government bodies and tourism agencies to hospitality service providers, to inform how they can meet and serve the needs of the Muslim traveller.
CrescentRating’s services include rating & accreditation, research & consultancy, workshops & training, ranking & indices, event support/partnerships and content provision. HalalTrip is a sister brand of CrescentRating.
MasterCard is a technology company in the global payments industry. MasterCard operates the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories.
MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities - such as shopping, traveling, running a business, and managing finances - easier, more secure, and more efficient for everyone.
The Muslim population is growing rapidly and is expected to become 26.5% of the world’s population by 2030.
The majority of the Muslim population comes from some of the fastest growing economies such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey and the Gulf countries. Muslims are now becoming an important consumer market for the entire world. They will become an increasingly important segment for businesses across all sectors.
Faith is increasingly influencing their purchasing decisions. They are searching for products and services that take into account their faith based needs. This has been illustrated over the last decade by the accelerated growth of Halal food, Islamic banking and lifestyle sectors.
The typical Muslim consumer is now younger, educated and with a larger disposable income which has precipitated an increased propensity to travel. This means travel and hospitality, and its various sub-sectors, is now one of the biggest markets within the Muslim consumer space.
This study revealed that in 2014 this segment was worth $145 billion, with 108 million Muslim travellers representing 10% of the entire travel economy. This is forecast to grow to 150 million visitors by 2020 and 11% of the market with an expenditure projected to grow to $200 billion. Muslim travel will continue to be one of the fastest growing travel sectors in the world.
Given the significance of this segment, MasterCard and CrescentRating have come together to develop and maintain the Global Muslim Travel Index, which will provide travellers, destinations and travel services, as well as investors, comprehensive benchmarks across a number of important criteria, to track the health and the growth of this travel segment.
The MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2015 looks at in-depth data covering 100 destinations, creating an overall index.
In 2011 CrescentRating published the first ever research into the Halal travel market with the release of the Top 10 Muslim friendly holiday destinations.
A year later this report was enhanced to include new data to distinguish between destinations with a large Muslim population (OIC member states) and others. The 2012 report included rankings of the Top 10 Muslim friendly OIC holiday destinations and Top 10 Muslim friendly non-OIC holiday destinations.
In 2013 the Index further evolved to cover 50 destinations across the world with each rated out of a score of 10. This list was expanded to cover 60 destinations in 2014.
The MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) is a natural progression of the previous research released by CrescentRating during the last four years. This partnership means the GMTI 2015 will be the most comprehensive research released on this fast growing travel segment.
For those in the tourism industry, the GMTI will be an invaluable tool in understanding just how Muslim travel is impacting the overall travel market.
It will provide every stakeholder in the travel and hospitality sector, including travellers, tourism boards, economists, travel services providers, stakeholders, investors and industry specialists with comprehensive benchmarks across a number of important criteria to track the health and the growth of this travel segment.
The GMTI 2015 studies an enhanced set of metrics and deeper data compared with the rankings and reports released over the last four years by CrescentRating.
It will help destinations and those responsible for tourism to better benchmark the services they offer and use the detailed analysis in the report to improve processes and how they attract the Muslim traveller. In addition, travellers will have the information to make educated choices when planning trips.
The GMTI 2015 looks at nine criteria in three areas that contribute to the overall index score for each destination. Each of the criteria is elaborated upon further into this report.
Suitability as a holiday destination, family friendliness and safety
1. Muslim visitor arrivals
2. Family friendly holiday destination
3. Safe travel environment
Muslim friendly services and facilities available at the destination
4. Dining options and Halal assurance
5. Ease of access to prayer places
6. Airport services and facilities
7. Accommodation options
Halal awareness and reach out to Muslims by the destination
8. Muslim travel market awareness and reach out
9. Ease of communication
The top 100 destinations ranked in this report are taken from 110 studied, including 29 OIC destinations and 81 non-OIC destinations. These hundred destinations represent more than 95% of Muslim visitor arrivals in 2014.
Against the backdrop of a new set of criteria Malaysia topped the 2015 Index with a score of 83.8. It was followed by Turkey at 73.8 and UAE at 72.1.
It is the fifth year in a row that Malaysia has ranked number one having topped the previous rankings produced by CrescentRating since 2011.
Although OIC destinations have a distinct advantage due to having Muslim friendly facilities and services by default, there is a still a requirement to create a clear and coherent strategy across every level to fully maximise their attractiveness to Muslim tourists. It is a commitment that Malaysia, and to an extent Turkey, has embraced wholeheartedly over the last decade. In 2014 Malaysia and Turkey attracted 13% of total Muslim travellers. Other destinations in the top 10 also have the potential to target this segment to increase their visitor arrivals.
Non-OIC destinations have been much more proactive in looking at this segment and are developing services and capabilities specifically to attract this audience. Commendable mentions must be given to Asian destinations such as Japan and Taiwan who have fully embraced this growing sector by dedicating resources and influencing tourism policy.
Given that many of these destinations already have excellent tourism products and infrastructure, for some it will only require small adaptations and adjustments to fully cater for the needs of Muslims.
Singapore comes out on top for the non-OIC destinations. Over the last few years it has invested in attracting this sector by adapting its offering to the Muslim tourist. It currently boasts some of the best Halal food environments in non-OIC destinations, even when compared against OIC destinations. In addition, it has invested and embraced processes that provide greater transparency to the sector. An example is the well-established and dedicated Halal certification body.
From a regional perspective, Asian destinations lead with an average GMTI score of 53.98.
The top 10 OIC destinations in the GMTI 2015 are:
The top 10 non-OIC destinations in the GMTI 2015 are:
GMTI40 will track the average score of the top 20 OIC and top 20 non-OIC destinations to form a key index to monitor the performance of the Muslim travel segment throughout the year. It is envisaged that the GMTI40 will be updated quarterly to provide frequent monitoring of the sector.
Currently, the top 20 destinations overall include only two non-OIC destinations, namely Singapore and Thailand. The GMTI40 will give a more balanced view of the Muslim travel segment.
A sign of encouragement for non-OIC destinations keen to attract this market can be gleaned by looking at Singapore, which came ninth in the overall rankings. This demonstrates the ability and potential for non-OIC destinations to attract the Muslim travel segment. A mention must also be made of Thailand, which has shown great improvement in the past few years and came 17th in the overall Index with a score of 60.3.
At the time of the release of GMTI 2015, GMTI40 stood at 55.9 with the overall average GMTI score for the 100 destinations at 41.6.
GMTI40 during 2015 will includes these destinations:
1. Family Friendly Holiday Destination
As one of the important criteria, GMTI takes into account the popularity of a destination for holidays as well as its family friendliness.
More than 50% of Muslim tourists travel with their families - a much higher percentage compared with other travel segments. So GMTI takes into account the level of family friendly activities the destination offers.
Two main metrics are studied for these criteria:
- The overall visitor arrivals at the destination in 2014
- The availability of activities such as shopping, sightseeing, architecture, arts and culture, nature and wildlife, beaches and more.
2. Safe Travel Environment
A safe and secure environment is key to attracting any tourist to a destination. Historically, empirical studies reveal a very high correlation between a safe travel environment and the number of tourist arrivals to a particular destination. Thus, a safe travel environment is an important catalyst when selecting a tourist destination to travel to. The safe travel environment score is calculated from the perspective of a Muslim traveller. Two primary factors were considered when calculating the scores:
- Travel alerts issued on a particular destination by UK, US, Australia and Canada
- Muslim traveller safety
Travel alerts issued about tourist destinations were used as the primary indicator to ascertain the general security situation of a particular country, especially for travellers. These travel alerts not only covers the general safety and security situation of a country, but also other factors such as natural disasters and health epidemics.
For the Muslim travel safety metrics, extensive online research was done to check for incidents reported against Muslims. Many Muslim female tourists wear traditional Islamic clothing which can include the Hijab. In some cases the face covering, Niqab, is also worn. Any resentment prevalent at the destination for such clothing is also taken into account.
3. Muslim Visitor Arrivals
One of the biggest indicators of the popularity of a destination is the volume of Muslim visitor arrivals. It is the first time this criteria has been included in the Index. The Muslim visitor arrival figures have been extracted by applying CrescentRating's proprietary Muslim Arrivals calculation model to the overall visitor arrivals as reported by UNWTO.
This study revealed that in 2014 total Muslim visitor arrivals were 108 million, representing 10% of the entire travel economy. The visitor arrivals used for this study are the total non-resident tourists who have entered the national borders of each selected inbound destination. The travel and tourism data provided by UNWTO is the primary source of data.
The scores for the Muslim visitor arrival criteria based on the:
- Total Muslim visitor arrivals
- Percentage of Muslim visitors as a segment of total visitors
4. Dining Options and Halal Assurance
Availability of Halal food is one of the most important aspects when it comes to catering for Muslim travellers. Muslims are required to only consume Halal food.
The main criteria for meat is that it has been slaughtered in a Halal manner. Furthermore, any food which does not use meat or meat based ingredients or alcohol in its preparation is considered permissible to consume. There should also be no risk of Halal food being contaminated with non-Halal food.
Given the complexity of the food industry, an independent Halal assurance of a food outlet by a Halal certification body puts Muslims at ease when choosing where to eat.
The dining options and Halal assurance score for each destination is based on:
- The availability of Halal food in the main cities of the destination
- The halal certification eco-system in the destination
Halal is easily available in most of the OIC destinations. The availability of Halal food in non-OIC destinations has also being growing in recent years. One example is Taiwan, where the last two years have seen the number of Halal certified outlets double. The certification body is part of the China Muslim Association.
Singapore has by far the best halal food environment among the non-OIC destinations. With its well established Halal certified body, MUIS, it has close to 10,000 halal certified food outlets.
5. Ease of Access to Prayer Places
Performing prayers (Salah) five times a day is one of the five pillars of Islam. Salah is preceded by ablution, a certain way of cleaning oneself before prayers.
The prayer could be performed at any clean location, but most Muslims travellers would prefer a mosque or a designated place for prayers. Hence, ease of access to prayer facilities in the tourist destination will make Muslim travellers comfortable.
The scoring methodology for access to prayer places is based on the general availability of prayer facilities in the destination and in particular their availability in the main tourist cities of the destinations.
It is no surprise that almost all of the OIC destinations received a score of 100. Most OIC destinations have easy access to mosques, but also in places such as Malaysia and UAE there are prayer places allocated in shopping malls, theme parks etc.
Among the non-OIC destinations, Singapore and the United Kingdom get the highest scores of 70. The average score of the top 10 is 57.5. Most non-OIC destinations have a score below this average.
6. Airport Services and Facilities
Airports provide various facilities and services that cater to the diverse needs of travellers from around the globe and witness large number of passengers throughout the year.
To cater for the growing number of Muslim travellers passing through, it is crucial that airports are able to cater to their specific needs.
The two most important services to cater for the needs of Muslim at airports are prayer facilities and Halal food availability. This is even more important if it is a major transit airport.
The scoring for this criterion was based on the following:
- Availability of prayer rooms in public and transit areas
- Availability of proper ablution facilities in public and transit areas
- Availability of Halal food/restaurants in both public and transit areas
Depending on the size of the destination, the above criteria is scored for the main international airports.
Most OIC destinations provide all the necessary airport services and facilities at the airport for Muslim travellers.
In non-OIC destinations, an increasing number of airports are now providing multi-faith prayer rooms. However, many still lack proper ablution facilities. Furthermore, there is also a large shortage of Halal food outlets in many non-OIC airports.
However, there is an indication that many non-OIC destinations are making inroads in this area. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International stands out as an airport which provides comprehensive prayer and halal food facilities.
During 2014, most Japanese airports have set up prayer rooms with ablution facilities, while a few are now also providing halal food
7. Accommodation Options
Providing accommodation options which cater for the Muslim travellers is important. Having access to Halal food, prayer direction markings, no alcohol and water friendly washrooms are just some of the most important services that Muslims will look for to make their stay comfortable at hotels or other accommodation.
Since a huge proportion of Muslim tourists travel with children and parents, having family friendly accommodation such as an apartment hotel will increase its attractiveness.
The accommodation score is based on the following:
- Number of hotels, which are promoted as Muslim friendly.
- The volume of apartment hotel type accommodation available for family travelers
Due to this sector being the slowest to adapt its services to cater for the Muslim market, it has been given the lowest weighting among all the criteria.
This is the area which has the lowest average score for the 100 destinations within the Muslim friendly services category. The hotels sector has in general been slow to look at the Muslim travel sector as an important market.
8. Travel Needs Awareness and Reach Out
This criteria looks at awareness of the Muslim travel market and its needs at the destination as well as specific reach out by the destination to this segment.
This includes marketing campaigns by tourism bodies directly targeting this sector.
We have measured the level of awareness using the following metrics:
- The percentage of Muslim population in the destination
- Conferences, workshops, seminars and other educational activities at the destination related to Halal food, Halal travel, Muslim consumers etc.
- Destination marketing targetted at the Muslim travellers
9. Language Proficiency
Most of the Muslim inbound travellers speak English, Arabic, Bahasa (Malaysia/Indonesia), Turkish, Persian and French. Therefore it is important to evaluate the proficiency in these languages in each destination.
The main languages of Muslim travellers and the proficiency were evaluated for each inbound destination. Since Arabic and English cover the majority of this visitor segment they were given a higher weighting.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Australia
Government of Canada
Government of the United Kingdom
Bureau of Consular Affairs – United States
United Nations World Tourism Organization - UNWTO
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CrescentRating is the world’s leading authority on Halal-friendly travel. The company’s vision is to lead, innovate and drive this segment through practical and deliverable solutions in what is regarded today as one of the fastest growing segments in the tourism sector.
The company uses insight, industry intelligence. lifestyle, behaviour and research on the needs of the Muslim traveler to deliver authoritative guidance on all aspects of Halal-friendly travel to organizations across the globe.
Formed in 2008, CrescentRating services are now used by every tier of the tourism industry globally, from government bodies and tourism agencies to hospitality service providers, to inform how they can meet and serve the needs of the Muslim traveler.
Its unique rating service, which combines detailed analysis, assessment and benchmarking, is now established as the premier Halal friendly standard for the industry.
The primary aim of CrescentRating is to enable Muslim travelers to explore any part of the world with the satisfaction that their needs and requirements are being met.
CrescentRating’s services now include rating & accreditation, research & consultancy, workshops & training, ranking & indices, event support/partnerships and content provision. HalalTrip is a sister brand of CrescentRating.
HalalTrip is one of the world’s leading online travel specialists catering specifically to the needs of the Muslim travelers.
The platform makes place discovery and trip planning easier, fun and more intuitive for those looking for a Halal-friendly travel experience. Its vision is to become the trusted trip advisor for Muslim travelers around the globe.
HalalTrip uses the latest technology to allow consumers to book flights, hotels and holiday packages to destinations across the world via its online platforms. Furthermore, the online portal has been created to satisfy the demands of those searching quality Halal leisure holidays.
HalalTrip provides information and resource for its users, providing in-depth looks into destinations across the world. You will find everything required to satisfy the criteria for a Muslim traveler from city and airport guides to Halal restaurant listings and mosque locations, to help Muslims with every aspect of their trip.
Through a free and unique mobile application available for iPhone/iPad and Android devices, it has created a series of must-have features to help Muslims navigate their way, whether they are planning their next Halal friendly holiday or want to explore the city where they live.