Global Muslim Travel Index 2023: Southeast Asia Becomes Muslim Tourism's Favorite

Global Muslim Travel Index 2023: Southeast Asia Becomes Muslim Tourism's Favorite
Istiqlal Mosque © Istiqlal Global Fund

Indonesia and Malaysia have once again achieved great success in the Mastercard-CresentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2023, becoming the top destinations for Muslim travelers around the world. Now in its eighth year, the two countries are proud to be named the Top Muslim Friendly Destination of the Year 2023.

In the GMTI 2023 report, Fazal Bahardeen, Founder & CEO of CrescentRating, stated that the ranking provides a comprehensive overview of the countries' performance in providing services to Muslim travelers as tourist destinations.

The GMTI (Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index) assessment is based on four main criteria: In this aspect of the assessment, Indonesia tied with Malaysia for the top spot as a popular destination for Muslim travelers. Other destinations in Southeast Asia also made the top ten list.

Indonesia, as the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, and Malaysia, which ranks 20th with a high population density, continue to be popular destinations for Muslim travelers. In the 2023 GMTI, both countries tied for the top spot. While Indonesia took the top spot in 2019, Malaysia has maintained its strong position since 2015.

Indonesia and Malaysia scored 73 out of a maximum score of 100, while Singapore scored 64 and ranked 12th, Thailand scored 52, and the Philippines scored 46. Out of 140 countries evaluated, the region confirms its determination to provide the best services and meet the needs of Muslim travelers.

Successful Synergy

Indonesia's Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy (Menparekraf), Sandiaga Uno, expressed his appreciation for Indonesia's selection as the top destination for Muslim tourists. Sandiaga felt proud and happy when he received the award in Singapore on Thursday (1/6).

The award is a clear proof of the efforts of Kemenparekraf and all stakeholders in promoting the development of halal tourism in Indonesia. Within two years, Indonesia's halal tourism has climbed the rankings from fourth place in 2021, to second place in 2022, to first place in 2023.

Sandiaga Uno also thanked all parties, especially the Indonesian Halal Tourism Association (PPHI), Halal In Travel, Mastercard Crescent and others, who contributed to this achievement.

Through the collaboration, PPHI won two awards at once, namely Stakeholder Awareness Campaign of the Year from Mastercard Crescent Rating GMTI Awards and Stakeholder Awareness Campaign of the Year from Halal In Travel Awards 2023.

Furthermore, Sandiaga revealed that this achievement should not only be maintained but also improved upon. Sandiaga also hopes that the target of 8.5 million tourists can be supported by halal tourism and Muslim tourists. It is also hoped that this achievement can accelerate the creation of 4.4 million jobs by 2024. The focus is on halal tourism as this sector has tremendous potential to create six times more jobs and significantly empower the community.

Maintaining The Momentum

The Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing announced that Malaysia has successfully maintained its top position as the 'Best Muslim Friendly Destination' in the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2023 report.

As the 'Best Muslim Friendly Destination' and 'Best Muslim Women Friendly Destination' of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), this achievement further strengthens Malaysia's position and image as a leader in Muslim tourism and Muslim Friendly Tourism and Hospitality (MFTH) at the regional and international levels.

For this achievement, Tiong is proud of Malaysia's success in attracting 2.12 million Muslim tourists to the country last year, contributing to a total expenditure of RM5.37 billion.

Tiong called on local entrepreneurs and industry players to embrace the concept of Muslim-friendly hospitality services as one of the strategies to expand and enhance the growth of the Islamic tourism industry in the country.

Tiong also encouraged them to participate in courses and programs organized by ITC, including the Muslim Friendly Tourist Guide (MFTG) course for locally licensed tour guides and the Muslim Friendly Tourism and Hospitality Assurance and Recognition (MFAR) program. These programs provide business development opportunities through the rapidly growing Islamic tourism sector.

The Future of Halal Travel

GMTI highlights the importance of the halal travel segment, with international Muslim traveler arrivals projected to reach 110 million by 2022 and increase to 140 million by 2023. Muslim visitor projections even reach 230 million by 2028, with an estimated spend of $225 billion. Asia leads the way in terms of arrivals, with more than 31 percent of travelers visiting the region identifying as Muslim.

Fazal Bahardeen, founder and CEO of CrescentRating, also revealed that while every destination is unique, Muslim travelers often look for itineraries that take into account faith-based needs. They want the availability of halal food, facilities for worship, and supportive communication and messaging from the destinations they visit.

GMTI also emphasizes the importance of collaboration and innovation in the travel industry, encouraging destinations to adapt to the evolving needs of Muslim travelers. As the industry rebounds strongly from the pandemic, understanding and responding to the preferences of this market will be key to long-term growth and sustainability.

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