The Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2017, which covers 130 destinations, saw Malaysia keep the top spot while Indonesia moved up to third place in the overall rankings.
The Index showed a number of non-Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) destinations in Asia move up the rankings, a result of the concerted effort to adapt their services to cater to and attract the Muslim travel market.
Singapore retained its pole position for the non-OIC destinations, with Thailand, the UK, South Africa and Hong Kong rounding up the top five.
Japan moved up two places to take sixth spot with Spain entering the top 10 for the first time.
According to the research, the Muslim travel market is expected to grow a further US$80bil (RM346.4bil) to reach US$300bil (RM1.3 trillion) by 2026.
It was also revealed that in 2016, there were an estimated 121 million Muslim visitor arrivals globally - up from 117 million in 2015 - and this is forecast to grow to 156 million visitors by 2020 representing 10% of the travel segment.
Asia has remained the leading region in the world in terms of attractiveness to Muslim tourists with an average GMTI score of 57.6, with Africa coming in second place at 47.0, followed by Oceania (43.8), Europe (39.9) and the Americas (33.7).
“We are definitely seeing the influence of a new breed of young travelers, millennials and Gen Z who are combining technology with a real desire to explore the world while still adhering to their faith-based needs,” chief executive officer of CrescentRating and HalalTrip, Fazal Bahardeen said.
“They will be the driving force for the next phase of growth. These younger travelers want greater choice, unique experiences and constant connectivity which can be seen with the growth of other Muslim lifestyle segments such as Halal food and modest fashion which link perfectly with the travel market,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mastercard division president (Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei) Safdar Khan said that with an overall expenditure of around US$155bil in 2016, the Muslim travel market remains a strong driver for the continued growth in travel across the world.
“At Mastercard, we’re committed to supporting the growth of this segment and are working with our partners to constantly develop new and innovative programs and offerings for Muslim consumers,” he said.
The GMTI is the most comprehensive research available on one of the fastest growing tourism sectors in the world, which represents 10% of the entire travel economy.
All 130 destinations in the GMTI were scored against a backdrop of four key strategic criteria - access, communications, environment and services. - Bernama