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The 11 Criteria that make up the Global Muslim Travel Index 2016

Mar 2016

The MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2016 was released in March 2016. GMTI 2016 looks at in-depth data covering 130
destinations. This year two new criteria – air connectivity and visa restrictions – have been added to further enhance the Index.This brings the total main criteria which makes up the Index to 11. 

The criteria used in GMTI 2016 centers around the following three themes:

  • Family-friendly holiday and safe travel destination
  • Muslim-friendly services and facilities at the destination
  • Halal awareness and destination marketing

Each of these themes are looked at from a set of eleven main criteria. Each of the criteria are weighted averages of more than 25 sub-criteria.

1. Family-Friendly Destination

More than 50 percent of Muslim tourists travel with their families - a much higher percentage compared to other travel segments. As such, GMTI takes into account the level of family-friendly activities the destination offers. Two main metrics are taken into account to calculate the score for these criteria:

  • The overall visitor arrivals at the destination in 2015
  • The availability of activities such as shopping, sightseeing, architecture, arts and culture, nature and wildlife, beaches and more

2. Muslim Traveler and General Safety

A safe and secure environment is key to attracting any tourist to a destination. The last 12 months has seen a heightened level of security concerns among travelers. In addition to general safety concerns, Muslim travelers are also concerned about the rising Islamophobia in a number of destinations. The safe travel environment score is calculated from the perspective of a Muslim traveler. Two primary factors are considered for calculating the scores:

  • Travel alerts issued on a destination by Australia, Canada, UK and US
  • Muslim traveler safety

Travel alerts issued about tourist destinations were used as the primary indicator to ascertain the general security situation of a particular country. These travel alerts not only cover the general safety and security situation of a country, but also other factors such as natural disasters and health epidemics.

For the Muslim travel safety metrics, extensive online research is done to check for incidents reported against Muslims. Many Muslim female tourists wear traditional Islamic clothing, which can include the Hijab. In some cases the face covering, Niqab, is also worn. Any resentment prevalent at the destination for such clothing is also taken into account.

3. Muslim Visitor Arrivals

One of the biggest indicators of the popularity of a destination is the volume of Muslim visitor arrivals. The Muslim visitor arrival figures have been extracted by applying CrescentRating's proprietary Muslim arrivals calculation model to the overall visitor arrivals as reported by United Nations World Tourism Organization
(UNWTO). This study revealed that in 2015 the estimated total Muslim visitor arrivals was 117 million representing 10 percent of the entire travel economy. The travel and tourism data provided by UNWTO is the primary source of data.

The score for the Muslim visitor arrival criteria is based on the:

  • Total Muslim visitor arrivals
  • Percentage of Muslim visitors as a percentage of total visitors

4. Dining Options and Halal Assurance

For Muslim tourists, Halal food is their primary concern when traveling. Given the complexity of the food industry, an independent Halal assurance of a food outlet puts Muslims at ease when choosing where to eat. The dining options and Halal assurance score for each destination is based on:

  • The availability of Halal food in the main cities of the destination
  • The Halal certification eco-system in the destination

5. Access to Prayer Places

Performing prayers (Salah) five times a day is one of the five pillars of Islam. Salah is preceded by ablution, a certain way of cleaning oneself before prayers. The prayer could be performed at any clean location, but most Muslims travelers would prefer a mosque or a designated place for prayers. Hence, ease of access to prayer facilities in the tourist destination will make Muslim travelers more comfortable.

Non-OIC destinations have been actively setting up prayer rooms in places like railway stations (Taiwan), shopping malls (Japan), attractions (Singapore) and at airports. An increasing number of them are also providing facilities for Wudhu. The scoring methodology for access to prayer places is based on the general availability of prayer facilities in
the destination and in particular their availability in the main tourist cities of the destinations.

6. Airport Facilities

Airports provide various facilities and services that cater to the diverse needs of travelers from around the globe and witness large number of passengers throughout the year. To cater to the growing number of Muslim travelers passing through, it is crucial that airports are able to cater to their specific needs. The three most important facilities that are needed to cater to the Muslim traveler is the availability of prayer rooms, proper ablution facilities and Halal food/restaurants in both public and transit areas.

The scoring for this criterion is based on the following:

  • Availability of proper ablution facilities in public and transit areas
  • Availability of prayer rooms in public and transit areas
  • Availability of Halal food / restaurants in both public and transit area

Depending on the size of the destination, the above criteria is scored for the main international airports at the destination.

7. Accommodation Options

Providing accommodation options which cater to Muslim travelers is important. Having access to Halal food,prayer direction markings and water-friendly washrooms are some of the most important services that Muslims will look for to make their stay comfortable at hotels or other accommodation. Since a huge proportion of Muslim tourists travel with children and parents, having family-friendly accommodation such as an apartment hotel will increase the attractiveness of a destination.

The accommodation score is based on the following:

  • Number of hotels, which are promoted as Muslim-friendly
  • The volume of apartment hotel type accommodation available for family travelers

8. Muslim Traveler Needs Awareness and Outreach

This criteria looks at awareness of the Muslim travel market and its needs at the destination as well asspecific outreach by the destination to this segment. This includes marketing campaigns by tourism bodies directly targeting this sector. This criteria is scored using the following metrics:

  • The percentage of Muslim population in the destination
  • Conferences, workshops, seminars and other educational activities at the destination related to Halal food, Halal travel, Muslim consumers, etc
  • Muslim visitor guides and information published by the destination
  • Destination marketing targeted at the Muslim travelers

9. Ease of Communication

Most Muslim travelers speak Arabic, Bahasa (Malaysia/Indonesia), English, French, Persian and Turkish. Therefore this criteria evaluates the proficiency in these languages for each destination. It is calculated based on the languages used by travelers from the top 30 Muslim travel outbound markets.

10. Air Connectivity

Air connectivity is an important consideration in planning a travel itinerary. This is a new criteria included in the GMTI 2016. The scores are based on the level of air connectivity to the destination from the top 30 Muslim travel outbound markets.

11. Visa Requirements

Visa requirements play a huge part in selecting a destination for leisure travel. As such, this criteria analysis the visa requirements of each destination for the top 30 Muslim travel outbound markets.

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