PARIS — Despite tensions with its local Muslim communities, France ranks high among Muslim tourists.
According to the 2016 Global Muslim Travel Index, or GMTI, which is compiled by Master Card and Crescent Rating, France came in sixth among the 130 most popular Muslim destinations.
Singapore took the number-one spot on the list of non-OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) countries, followed by Thailand, U.K., South Africa and Hong Kong.
The United States ranked 10th.
Malaysia claimed the top position within the OIC rating, followed by United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Indonesia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The index also showed that 117 million Muslims took to the road in 2015, accounting for 10 percent of a global travel economy valued at $200 billion. By 2020, the study projects the figure will stand at 168 million visitors, or 11 percent.
By continent, the most popular destinations among Muslims were Asia and Europe, accounting for 87 percent of total travels, the study showed.
“One of the biggest trends we are seeing is non-OIC destinations making a concerted effort to attract the Muslim tourist. They now represent over 63 percent of the destinations covered in the GMTI. For example, Japan and Philippines have taken some major steps over the last few months to diversify their visitor arrivals and boost their economy in the process,” said Fazal Bahardeen, chief executive officer of Crescent Rating and Halal Trip.
Matthew Driver, group executive, global products and solutions for the Asia Pacific region at MasterCard, added: “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. 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 travelers and how to adapt and tailor products and services for them.”
Criteria for favored destinations include suitability as a family holiday destination, accommodation, marketing initiatives and halal dining options.