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The growing importance of Europe to the Muslim travel market

Europe is a key region in global travel and tourism market and for the Muslim traveller it is also very important. Both the inbound and outbound European Muslim tourist market is worth billions of dollars annually to the travel economy and a key strategic location which provides a plethora of opportunities stakeholders in the market.

Currently, Europe is home to approximately 45 million Muslims according to the latest data. GermanyFrance and the UK have the largest Muslim populations in the European Union member countries. However, in Europe overall, Russia has the largest Muslim population on the continent with 14 million Muslims (10%).

With such a large number of Muslims in this region, it was interesting to analyse the GMTI in the context of Europe. Not only is the outbound market from the continent to countries like UAEMalaysia and Turkey a strong market, Europe is an especially attractive destination for inbound tourism. France and the UK in particular welcome a large inbound Muslim market from OIC countries such as the GCC and Malaysia. It is a market which is set to get bigger every year and play a significant part in the travel economy.

The MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index 2015 paints a very interesting picture about the European market.

In total, 32 European destinations were analysed and featured on the Global Muslim Travel Index 2015 out of a total of 100 destinations. All 100 destinations in the GMTI were scored against a backdrop of criteria which included suitability as a family holiday destination, the level of services and facilities it provides, accommodation options, marketing initiatives as well as visitor arrivals. Each criterion was then weighted to make up the overall index score.

In the top 10 non-OIC countries, Europe provides four destinations and nine in the top 20. The UK is the highest listed among the European contingent from the non-OIC countries in third position with a GMTI score of 55 behind only Singapore (1st) and Thailand (2nd). 

The other European destinations that were ranked among the top 10 non-OIC destinations were FranceBelgium and Spain which were placed 5th, 6th and 9th respectively.

The European destinations were ranked as follows:

United kingdom 55 25
France 48.2 31
Belgium 47.5 32
Spain 46.5 35
Switzerland 45.2 38
Bosnia & Herzegovina 44 42
Russian federation 43.8 43
Germany 43.5 44
Netherlands 42.1 46
Albania 41.8 48
Italy 40.4 51
Ireland 39.4 53
Croatia 37.1 59
Austria 37 60
Denmark 36.6 61
Bulgaria 35.4 63
Greece 35.3 64
Portugal 35 65
Slovenia 34.1 69
Norway 33.6 70
Sweden 33.5 71
Poland 32.3 73
Romania 32.2 74
Luxembourg 31.6 77
Lithuania 31.5 78
Hungary 31.1 79
Finland 30.9 80
Czech Republic 30.3 84
Estonia 30 85
Malta 29.5 87
Latvia 29.2 88
Slovak Republic 28.4 91


The European region overall scored relatively higher in the “Holiday Destination” in comparison with other regions which is unsurprising. Destinations like Spain is a natural destination for Muslim travellers due to its rich Islamic history while the UK and France provide excellent tourist attractions and shopping experiences.  Although these destinations do not actively promote to the Muslim travel consumer, it shows the potential available if they were to create individual marketing campaigns to target this sector.

The European region – together with are the Middle Eastern and South East Asian regions – also have the most number of destinations with the highest Muslim visitor arrivals.

For the “Access to Prayer Space” category, Europe scored an average of 25.18 with the more prominent tourist destinations such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany scoring higher than the regional average. The highest “Language Proficiency” scores were also recorded from Europe and the Middle East.

As the market matures, Europe is set to become a significant player in the halal tourism market. In the last few studies done by CrescentRating one important factor that emerged was the inter-European travel among Muslims. Travelling to a fellow European destination provides excellent opportunities for every destination in the continent. Furthermore, smaller destinations like Croatia and Slovakia, which have featured in previous Indexes, can capitalise on its current infrastructure to target European Muslims. This will lead to these destinations becoming popular even with the wider Muslim travel consumer from places like GCC and Far East. 

Those European destinations that pay close attention to these indicators and continue to amplify their efforts will be the ones which will benefit over the long-term.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we will analyse all 100 countries featured in the GMTI2015 and look in-depth of where they ranked and what potential opportunities are available for them.

For the complete report and rankings, visit: http://gmti.crescentrating.com/mastercard-crescentrating-global-muslim-travel-index-2015-gmti2015.html

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