3 Ramadaan 1438 AH • 29 May 2017

SA ranks as 4th top destination worldwide for Muslim travellers

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South Africa has once again shown it has some special tourism offerings, this time flying the flag higher in the realm of the Muslim Travel Market.

SA took fourth position – moving up from last year’s 5th position – when it comes to being an appealing destination for Muslim travellers, according to the Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index 2017 held in Jakarta.

With an Index score of 53.6, this placed SA behind Singapore, Thailand and the UK of Non-Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) markets for the third consecutive year while Malaysia kept the pole position for OIC and overall. Indonesia moved up to third place in the overall rankings.

The Index, which covers 130 destinations, showed a number of non- 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.

The rankings saw Hong Kong make up the top five for the non-OIC destinations, with Japan moving up two places to take the sixth spot with Spain entering the top 10 for the first time and Singapore remains the only non-OIC destination in the overall top 10.

Over and above, Indonesia, Japan and Taiwan saw the biggest improvements in ranking on the overall top 10 list.

The research showed that the Muslim travel market will continue to grow at a fast pace with the sector estimated to grow to US$220 billion (about R2 937bn at R13.35/$) in 2020 and expected to grow a further US$80 billion (about 73 285bn at R13.35/$) ) to reach US$300 billion (about 247 825bn at R13.35/$ ) 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.

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 with 43.8, Europe at 39.9 and the Americas at 33.7.

Fazal Bahardeen, CEO of CrescentRating & HalalTrip, says the GMTI continues to reveal detailed insights which will assist destinations in better understanding the shifting needs of the segment.

“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,” says Bahardeen.

“They will be the driving force for the next phase of growth which destinations like South Africa must recognise and implement measures accordingly to maintain and increase its position in the top five going forward.”

Younger travellers want greater choice’

Bahardeen says younger travellers 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.

“As Muslim travel continues to diversify, keeping on top of the demographics of the travellers, although these insights from the GMTI will be paramount for destination management teams and decision makers who are ultimately sourcing solutions for this market,” says Bahardeen.

‘Technology, for example, is improving the experiences of Muslim travellers’

Safdar Khan, Division President, Indonesia, Malaysia & Brunei, Mastercard says,“With an overall expenditure of around US$155 (R 1,538,002,525) billion in 2016, the Muslim travel market remains a strong driver for the continued growth in travel across the world and it’s constantly evolving with major forces such as changing demographics and digitization shaping the way the industry is progressing.

“Technology, for example, is improving the experiences of Muslim travellers every step of the way from the planning phase to the experience phase and the sharing phase,” say Khan. “There is a huge opportunity for service providers to innovate and adapt their offerings to cater to the unique needs of this segment at each of these phases across multiple touch points.”

“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,” concludes Khan.

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