Muslim tourists around the world represent a fast-growing niche market comprising of an affluent young demographic with unique needs. Many of these Muslim majority markets are fast emerging economies with high population growth and have some similar requirements pertaining to travel such as halal food, separate recreation facilities, prayer facilities, and other Muslim-friendly facilities. However, this sizeable Muslim tourist market is culturally diverse and widely distributed and therefore will have different habits and patterns of travel. Although this group of travelers can be segmented due to their common need for Muslim-friendly facilities, their destination preferences and travel habits, and patterns might vary according to their age, travel purpose, and the region they are from.
Travelers from countries with a majority Muslim population might have different expectations in regards to their holiday compared to those Muslim travelers from a minority or non-Muslim country. The most important requirement for all Muslim travelers when deciding on a holiday destination is the availability of halal food. Other factors that would play an important role in the decision-making process would be the availability of mosques or other prayer facilities, the overall price of the holiday, relaxation facilities, Muslim-friendly experiences, adventure experiences, airline and hotel deals. These are just a few factors that would influence the Muslim traveler.
The GCC countries represent the highest proportion of global Muslim travel expenditure although it is only a small percentage of the total Muslim population. The majority of these Arab tourists are married with families and are mostly young or middle-aged and belonged to a high disposable income group. The majority of outbound travel is from Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Indonesia. The most popular or preferred destinations among Muslim travelers are Malaysia, Turkey, and UAE. This is mainly due to the Muslim-friendly facilities that are available to them. However, with many countries now catering to this niche market, travel trends are changing with many of the travelers being more adventurous and choosing other locations to holiday in.
When considering the patterns or habits of these travelers, the duration of the holiday among this segment is usually longer compared to other travelers, as most of them tend to spend at least a week or two in the chosen destination. Travelers from Arab countries usually travel with family or in large groups. Most of these travelers engage in sightseeing activities and visit interesting places while others visit theme parks and enjoy shopping. Having family-friendly leisure activities and entertainment would be a great draw for these travelers. Separate spa facilities for men and women are a plus for many travelers who wish to relax and unwind.
Food requirements will vary according to the region the traveler is from. Although all Muslim travelers will require halal food, the preferences of cuisine will be diverse. Most travelers like to experiment and experience the local food of their travel destination while others like to stick to restaurants serving food that are close to their cuisine. Arabs generally prefer western cuisine when they travel, but Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine is also popular among this group. Tourists from Indonesia and surrounding countries might prefer food from their region.
Unlike in the past where most Muslim holidaymakers traveled to a chosen few countries, the current trend is to explore and experience the diversity of various cultures, sights, sounds, and tastes. Destinations that in the past were traditionally less popular among this segment, mainly ones that are largely non-Muslim, are now gaining in popularity. This is mainly due to many countries providing better Muslim-friendly facilities and also due to the more adventurous nature of the traveler.
Countries like Singapore, Australia, Canada, Thailand, and Japan have become more popular with Muslim travelers although these countries have a minority Muslim population. Some European countries like France and the United Kingdom are countries with adequate facilities for Muslims and have thus become popular destinations. With more and more Muslims traveling for various reasons such as leisure, business, work, medical, and education, countries would be wise to take note of the needs and habits of Muslim travelers to provide better facilities in order to be a more inviting destination to this fast-growing travel segment.