Scoring exceptionally well in most parameters for ‘Muslim-friendly travel’ in the MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2016, Qatar maintained its position as the fifth most popular destination in the global Muslim travel market
Over the last few years, Qatar has consistently been named among the friendliest nations for Muslim travelers. With an increasing number of hotel accommodations catered specifically to Muslims, along with a stepped-up marketing effort geared to the travel demographic, Qatar is on the right track to continue improving its standing and appeal within the Muslim travel market in the years to come.
“The travel market is becoming increasingly competitive and Qatar’s high ranking in the GMTI 2016 reflects the country’s efforts to diversify its visitor base to maintain tourist growth rates,” Raghav Prasad, general manager of Gulf countries for MasterCard, told the Gulf News Journal. “Qatar understands the needs and preferences of today's Muslim travelers, and how to adapt and tailor products and services to them.”
The GMTI 2016 is the most comprehensive index that has ever been released on the Muslim travel sector, covering 130 destinations from across the world. As the most authoritative and reliable source of information on the Muslim travel market, the GMTI helps businesses and governments better understand the needs and preferences of this growing segment to further drive economic growth and development.
“The collaboration with CrescentRating on the Global Muslim Travel Index underscores our commitment to cater to the specific needs of Muslim travelers who are looking to travel with peace of mind,” Prasad said. “The partnership provides MasterCard and CrescentRating with an opportunity to co-develop various rankings and indices covering holiday, shopping and island destinations, among others, for the Muslim travel segment. This will further strengthen MasterCard’s thought leadership role, particularly in the travel sector.”
Eight of the top 10 countries in this year’s Index were from the Middle East and Africa. Malaysia retained its top position on the list of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) destinations, while the United Arab Emirates (UAE) moved up one spot to second place on the list, with five out of the other six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain, also being placed among the top 10 destinations.
Prasad said in both Qatar and the UAE there have been concerted actions at all levels of government and the private sector to offer Muslim-friendly activities, facilities and services – from air connectivity and airport facilities to accommodation and dining options and access to prayer places. Plus, the availability of activities such as shopping, sightseeing, arts and culture, beaches, etc. – which both the UAE and Qatar offer in abundance – are a natural draw for travelers.
The list of non-OIC destinations, meanwhile, was topped once again by Singapore while South Africa made a surprising climb to the fourth spot, with Thailand, United Kingdom and Hong Kong making up the top five.
“One of the biggest trends we are seeing is non-OIC destinations making a concerted effort to attract the Muslim tourist, and they now represent over 63 percent of the destinations covered in the GMTI,” Prasad said.
The changing travel habits and consumer shopping preferences, and the readiness and capability of destinations in addressing these preferences, can also influence a nation’s standing within the travel market.
Prasad said the payment landscape is increasingly shifting toward online and digital transactions, both in the Middle East and around the world.
“If you look closely at the countries that occupy the top slots in the GMTI 2016, those are invariably destinations that have embraced innovations in the payments sector and which provide visitors with convenient electronic means to make bookings, and pay for goods and services,” Prasad said. “Qatar and the UAE are among the Middle Eastern countries that are moving fastest away from cash, and unsurprisingly, both nations find themselves in the top 5 in the GMTI 2016.”