PETALING JAYA: Malaysia tops the charts as the best Muslim travel destination in the world in the 2017 Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI).
The country took the number one position for the third time in a row, outperforming countries like United Arab Emirates (UAE), Indonesia and Turkey.
The Index released by Mastercard and CrescentRating covers a total of 130 countries to benchmark destinations in the Muslim travel market.
Each country is given points based on criteria, such as air connectivity, airport facilities, visa, ease of communication, ease to access of prayer spaces and Muslim travel needs awareness.
Malaysia tops the index with a total 82.5 points, garnering a full 100 points for the ease of access to prayer spaces and airport facilities score categories.
The second place went to UAE with 76.9 points. Third place went to Indonesia with 72.6 points.
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, in tenth place, with 67.3 points.
Fazal Bahardeen, CEO of CrescentRating and HalalTrip, said the GMTI continues to reveal detailed insights which will assist stakeholders in better understanding the shifting needs of the segment.
"Although Malaysia has maintained its top spot, there is pressure now from other destinations who are adapting their offering to service this sector," he said.
"We are definitely seeing the influence of a new breed of young travellers, millennials and Gen Z who are combining technology with a real desire to explore the world while still adhering to their faith-based needs.
"They will be the driving force for the next phase of growth which destinations like Malaysia must recognise and implement measures accordingly to satisfy to maintain its top spot going forward," said Fazal.
He said younger travellers want greater choice, unique experiences and constant connectivity. This 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.
Research shows that the Muslim travel market will continue to grow at a fast pace with the sector estimated to grow to US$220bil (RM954.5bil) in 2020.
It is expected to grow a further US$80bil (RM347.1bil) 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 forecasted to grow to 156 million visitors by 2020 representing 10 percent of the travel segment.