CrescrentRating and Mastercard are proud to present the 6th edition of the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI).
As we tread the path towards full recovery with cautious optimism, we believe findings and the GMTI 2021 rankings would be of great help for destinations around the world in gearing up for the resumption of Muslim travel.
In turn, we launched a series of reports to provide stakeholders a closer look at how to prepare for the return of international travels. In this article, we will be taking a deeper dive into the GMTI 2021 results.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to retain and drop some previously used metrics in coming up with the latest GMTI rankings. At the same time, we have also rolled out new ones to better reflect the present situation, and to give us a clearer picture of what lies ahead.
A total of 140 destinations made it to the cut of this year's GMTI, with Malaysia still leading the pack. For non-OIC destinations, Singapore managed to hold its spot as Top 1.
The global health crisis spawned by COVID-19 also led us to revise our ACES model. The ACES model, which stands for Access, Communication, Environment, and Services, has been the backbone of every GMTI ranking.
In calculating the GMTI 2021 results, the ACES model was modified to become ACES 3.0. The revamped ACES puts emphasis on what stakeholders in the Muslim travel market should prioritize during and after the pandemic.
In terms of access, countries from Western Asia have the highest scores - United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Turkey. Hubs of major global airlines such as Emirates, Qatar Airlines, and Turkish Airlines are located in these destinations.
Saudi Arabia, Oman, The Netherlands, Germany, Jordan, Egypt, and Singapore also scored high when it comes to accessibility.
Access for Muslim travelers has always been a crucial element for Muslim-friendly destinations. Air connectivity, land connectivity, and transport infrastructure, altogether, play an important role to ensure a steady influx of new and returning Muslim tourists.
But when COVID-19 came, connectivity between travelers and destinations was hugely disrupted. Even if the pandemic is beginning its transition to becoming endemic, uncertainties still loom, with most airlines and other travel agencies adjusting every now and then to constant changes. This is why for the GMTI 2021 results, we decided to drop the Visa Requirement in the meantime.
Ranking destinations according to their accessibility is based on their May 2021 status.
Sustaining destination awareness despite restrictions is essential in keeping the Muslim travel industry alive, leading us to update our Communications category.
Malaysia bested the rest of the 140 Muslim-friendly destinations when it comes to leveraging Communication strategies in connecting and engaging with Muslim travel markets even with limitations. Joining it in the Top 10 are Indonesia, Singapore, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, and United Arab Emirates.
In the Communications categories, new subcategories were also put in place. These are Communications Proficiency, Destination Marketing, and Stakeholder Awareness. All of them underscore the need to execute destination marketing efforts to Muslim travelers as well as educate travel stakeholders at the destination even during lockdowns.
Destination Marketing refers to initiatives made in reaching out to the Muslim market through online channels and digital content, Muslim visitor guides, media campaigns, and other marketing outreach activations.
During the pandemic, several destinations decided to also make Muslim visitor guides accessible online, ultimately providing more information to potential Muslim tourists. Before COVID-19 struck, Muslim visitor guides are key in promoting a destination to Muslim travelers.
Inside a Muslim visitor guide, one can find the list or guide to Muslim-friendly services, facilities, experiences, and to some extent - a Halal food guide.
Some of the destinations that have been providing Muslim visitor guides included Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, to name a few.
Now, Muslim visitor guides are more important than ever, especially during these times when most tourists are looking for travel inspiration online. Digital Muslim visitor guides not only inspire Muslim travelers to travel beyond the pandemic but also enable them to search for the relevant services with ease.
For the Environment category, we believed that aside from giving Muslim guests a sense of security when practicing their faith, how destinations respond to COVID-19 outbreaks is also crucial in producing the GMTI 2021 results.
Turkey topped the list of destinations in terms of destinations with the best Environment for Muslim travelers. Those that also made it to the Top 10 are Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Japan, and Andorra.
We also factored in how a destination is coping with the economic impact of the pandemic, and how they are addressing concerns arising from it, particularly those related to the travel and tourism industry.
This category also pertains to innovation and sustainability powered by institutions, research and development efforts, the use of information technology, and visitor arrivals. Since arrivals of Muslim tourists took a nosedive in 2020, we used the 2019 visitor arrivals data in computing a destination’s Environment factor.
In our previous article, we have discussed the role of Travel Readiness Indicators in measuring how a destination is preparing itself for the eventual resumption of international travels while managing health crises like the COVID-19. You can read more about it by clicking this link.
No significant changes were made under the Services category for the 6th edition of the GMTI. Except for the ‘Unique Experiences’ subcategory which we have momentarily set aside, considering most excursions went to a grinding halt during the pandemic.
We found out that Malaysia still topped the list of destinations that scored high in terms of Muslim-friendly Services.
Also joining Malaysia in the Top 10 list are Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Brunei, Oman, Turkey, Kuwait, and Bangladesh, all of which are predominantly Muslim countries.
Muslim-friendly services and other faith-based needs for Muslim travelers remain important for destinations seeking to welcome and capture a significant portion of the Muslim travel market.
Since COVID-19 interrupted much of the Muslim travel industry, we decided to use data in 2019 in measuring a destination’s Services factor.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has barely changed Muslim travelers’ behavior when it comes to looking for Halal-certified food in a destination. It is still the key service that drives Muslim tourists to fly and visit a certain destination.
Based on consumer insights we compiled, we discovered that Muslim consumers have three different levels of perceived assurance in response to current Halal assurance practices by establishments in the industry.
Muslim guests are more responsive to establishments that have earned certifications and ratings in serving Halal food as they provide more assurance compared to those with simple and easy-to-implement marketing strategies.
Establishments with call-to-actions or signages like Muslim seller, Muslim brand, Muslim country of origin, inference of no alcohol, pork, or cross-contamination can upgrade their Halal services by securing certifications from Halal authorities.
Meanwhile, Muslim visitors are often doubtful on those simply themed around Middle Eastern artifacts, Muslim faces, names, and pseudo-Arabic font alphabets, to name some.
In the past few years, the availability of Halal food has increased in many destinations. For example, in Taiwan, a non-OIC destination, the number of Halal-certified restaurants there has tripled during the last 5 to 6 years.
During the pandemic, some destinations suffered a disruption in their growing Halal food scene like Japan. With no international visitors in 2020, its domestic markets, unfortunately, were not large enough to sustain its growth.
Other destinations have fared well and even saw the value of its entire Halal food industry reach millions in dollars.
Singapore has one of the most vibrant Halal dining ecosystems, with regional and international cuisines available as Halal options. Its growth has been largely due to local Singapore Muslims’ who spent an estimated USD 520 Million in 2019 on Halal dining.
The Mastercard-Crescentrating Halal Food Lifestyle Singapore 2021 had an in-depth look at the Halal food lifestyle market size, including the preferences and behaviors of Muslim consumers in Singapore.
Things are starting to get brighter for the Muslim travel industry. But destinations should bring with them the lessons they learned, and the best practices they made during the pandemic in order to transition to a post-COVID era smoothly and efficiently. With this, we hope the GMTI 2021 results provided the necessary insights for stakeholders in welcoming the future of Muslim travel.
Download the full report here.