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Bandarawela Hotel is one of Sri Lanka's finest colonial and heritage hotels that has been in operation since 1893. Located in the heart of Bandarawela town, the hotel caters to holidaymakers and leisure travellers, with a wealth of facilities and services also offered to Muslim travellers. Bandarawela Hotel has been awarded a Muslim-friendly hotel rating of 3 by CrescentRating and is a great choice for Muslim travellers vacationing in Sri Lanka.

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.

GMTI40 tracks 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. 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.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand projects a huge increase in Muslim visitors from the year 2016 onwards - particularly from the neighbouring countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. This increase in Muslim visitors is owed to the upgrading of Muslim-friendly facilities in the destination - with Halal food and prayer facilities becoming readily available and an increasing investor interest in developing Halal tourism hotels.

Industry experts noted that Thailand has always been a popular choice - especially for families travelling to Phuket with direct Emirates flights. Representatives from the Tourism Authority of Thailand identified the country's ability to cater to Muslim travellers by providing Arabic-speaking staff, Halal food options, prayer facilities in the airport, Muslim-friendly hotels and restaurants, and tourist attractions to its visitors.

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 travelers. Other destinations in the top 10 also have the potential to target this segment to increase their visitor arrivals. 

CrescentRating has evaluated destinations around the world over the last four years and ranked them based on how well they cater to Muslim travellers. This article takes a closer look at MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index and how it became a benchmark for the Halal tourism industry.

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, the 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.

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