The Keynote Speech by Keith Tan, the Chief Executive of the Singapore Tourism Board, at the Halal In Travel Global Summit 2021.
Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Keith Tan, and I'm the Chief Executive of the Singapore Tourism Board. I want to thank CrescentRating for having me here today. It is indeed an honor for me to be speaking at this important global summit, and it is important because we recognize the significance of the Muslim travel segment.
By 2023, Muslims around the world are estimated to spend at least $3 trillion on lifestyle products and no less than $220 billion on travel expenses. At the same time, the number of Muslim travelers is projected to reach 230 million by 2026, and a lot of that growth will come from Southeast Asia. While COVID-19 may have dampened some short-term prospects, Singapore recognizes the long-term value and opportunities in this segment, and we remain deeply committed to this market.
Since the inception of the Global Muslim Travel Index in 2015, Singapore has been consistently ranked as a top Muslim-friendly destination amongst non-OIC countries. Together with my colleagues in the Singapore Tourism Board, we will continue striving to maintain our top position while ensuring that Singapore continues to welcome all travelers. I recognize that there are still many areas for us to improve, and we look forward to working closely with our partners here in Singapore to improve and build on our strengths.
Today, Muslims form about 16% of our population in Singapore. One will easily notice mosques co-existing alongside other places of worship in many of Singapore's neighborhoods. A good example is the Jamae Mosque in Chinatown. It is one of the oldest mosques in Singapore, built between 1830 and 1835 by South Indian Tamil Muslim immigrants. It is situated right next to the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple, our oldest Hindu temple here in Singapore.
Singapore's oldest mosque, the Masjid Omar Kampong Malaka, was built over 200 years ago in 1820 by Said Sharif Omar Bin Ali Al Junaid, a Yemeni Arab merchant. Masjid Omar was not just a gathering point for the local Malay community but also for Muslims who came from India, the Middle East, and all over Southeast Asia. I hope that Singapore remains a city that welcomes visitors from all over the world.
CrescentRating estimates that Singapore received 3.65 million Muslim travelers in 2019, accounting for about a fifth of our total visitor arrivals that year. That is, however, still a long way from the 17 million Southeast Asian Muslim travelers who made an international trip in 2019.
We recognize that Malaysia and Indonesia are important major Muslim outbound markets. As our immediate neighbors, Muslim travelers from both these countries have always been important to Singapore. That is why we have set up offices in both Indonesia and Malaysia, with two offices in Indonesia in Jakarta and Surabaya and one in Kuala Lumpur. We also have an office in Dubai to reach out to the Muslim market in the Middle East.
I am confident that Singapore offers a rich and diverse range of experiences, offerings, and activities for Muslim visitors. For one, the growing Halal food scene in Singapore provides Muslim travelers with a wide range of international and local options to choose from. Very high quality as well.
There are over 3000 Halal-certified F&B establishments all over Singapore. Some of our homegrown heritage restaurants, such as Hajjah Maimuna and Bismillah Biryani have, in fact, earned the MICHELIN Star Bib Gourmand. One can also easily find top-notch Italian, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean Halal restaurants in Singapore.
Muslim travelers will also notice that most, if not all, of our key tourism precincts, have mosques or prayer facilities nearby. This allows them to explore with ease, knowing that they can still quite easily fulfill their prayer obligations and requirements. Our hotels are also very well aware of their Muslim guests' unique needs and expectations.
Therefore, STB has been producing the Muslim Visitor Guide for more than ten years in various forms, with information covering food, significant religious sites, and interesting experiences and events to capture such key information for our Muslim travelers. The latest version of the Muslim Visitor Guide, which CrescentRating and STB jointly developed, similarly captures this information but has been updated and presented to allow Muslim travelers to explore our cultural and historical precincts with safety, ease, and peace of mind. We hope this guide will come in handy and serve as a source of inspiration when you next visit when borders have been reopened, which I hope will be very soon.
Ultimately, STB recognizes that for Singapore to remain an attractive destination for Muslim travelers, we must build on our overall attractiveness as a great destination for all travelers. Hence, we make sure that our tourism precincts and tourist attractions continue to upgrade and rejuvenate themselves. For example, we are in the midst of a multi-year effort to transform Orchard Road so that it is not just a great shopping and retail street but also one of the world's great lifestyle destinations with great F&B, arts, and entertainment offerings, and wellness options for all ages.
We have also embarked on an ambitious plan to refresh the offerings in Santosa, again a very well-known attraction amongst Muslim travelers from Southeast Asia. New attractions, including many family-oriented ones, have come up already and many more in the works, and of course, Resorts World Santosa has already announced bold plans to expand Universal Studios Singapore. These are just some of the larger examples of our ongoing efforts to rejuvenate and transform Singapore's tourism landscape, and I hope I have conveyed a sense of how Singapore intends to remain attractive and vibrant as one of the world's leading destinations for business and leisure travelers.
While the pandemic continues to evolve and international travel remains restricted for some time, platforms such as this Halal In Travel Global Summit enable meaningful discussions between different organizations. Such discussions are key in times like this, as they will help spur new ideas and solutions to tackle the challenges of travel in a time of COVID.
I would like to congratulate Crescentrating on successfully organizing this year's Halal In Travel as an independent summit. This achievement amidst a global pandemic is indeed inspiring. It serves as a strong signal to the travel industry that we can still achieve great progress during these challenging times with innovation, resilience, and forward-thinking.
Let me wish all of you a great day of meaningful discussion and sharing insights. Stay safe, stay well, and I hope to see all of you in Singapore soon. Thank you.