| Azlan Othman |
BRUNEI Darussalam has been named the 11th best destination for Muslim travellers among Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries, according to a research survey.
The sultanate leapfrogged two places in this year’s survey with an average score of 60.5. It was ranked 13th place last year and 12th in 2016. Sharing the same position with Brunei Darussalam this year is Kuwait.
As with last year, Brunei retained a full score (100) in safety and culture as well as prayer space access, and gained a score of 90 in dining options in the latest Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) for 2018, which grades 130 destinations globally.
Brunei Darussalam also scored strongly in terms of ease of communications with a 78.4 score and visa requirements (73), but the country was adjudged to be considerably lacking in terms of digital presence and outreach, scoring 23.6 and 26.3 respectively in these areas.
Topping the index is Malaysia, the eighth consecutive year in which the country has held the position. Malaysia managed to maintain its leadership as one of the best destinations for Muslim travellers by scoring strongly in the various criteria covered in the index.
Its close neighbour Indonesia, meanwhile, has risen steadily in the ranks and is now tied with the United Arab Emirates in second spot. Singapore retains its top position among non-OIC destinations with significant improvements in its standing along with Japan.
Despite the distinct advantages OIC countries have in the index due to their readily available Muslim-friendly facilities and services, non-OIC destinations have managed to make significant ground up the index rankings by improving their services to better attract and cater to visitors from the Muslim travel market.
Mastercard and CrescentRating have said that the research confirms that the Muslim travel market is set to continue its fast-paced growth and well on course to reaching a worth of US$220 billion in 2020. It is expected to grow a further US$80 billion to hit US$300 billion by 2026.
In 2017, there were an estimated 131 million Muslim visitor arrivals globally, up from 121 million in 2016. This is forecast to grow to 156 million visitors by 2020, representing 10 per cent of the travel segment.
“We are now starting to see the impact of investment and commitment by destinations across the world into the Muslim travel market, which is reaping rewards, seen for example in these countries making real shifts up the rankings,” commented CrescentRating and HalalTrip Chief Executive Officer Fazal Bahardeen.
“The concerted efforts of destinations such as Indonesia, Singapore and Japan in using data and insights from the previous GMTI reports have to be commended as they are now closing the gap with other OIC countries. This year we have revamped the GMTI criteria to better reflect the growth strategies implemented by destinations to welcome Muslim travellers, resulting in positive movement across the index. We have also released the ‘CrescentRating Growth & Innovation Model’ to help destinations practically use this report to strategise growth and innovation for this fast-paced travel segment.”
Asia is the leading region in the world for attracting Muslim visitors, followed by Europe.
“Many already successful destinations around the world are looking to diversify their visitor base to maintain tourist growth rates in today’s increasingly competitive travel market,” said Mastercard Division President Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, Safdar Khan.
“The fast growing Muslim travel segment is an opportunity in plain sight but in order to benefit from it, it is crucial to understand the needs and preferences of Muslim travellers and how to adapt and tailor products and services for them.”
Unlocking the potential of the next generation of Muslim travellers will be key, as outlined in the Mastercard-HalalTrip Muslim Millennial Travel Report 2017.
Mastercard and CrescentRating estimate that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region will welcome over 18 million Muslim visitor arrivals by 2020, representing close to 15 per cent of the visitor arrivals to the region.