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Sat 26 Mar 2016 12:56 AM

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UAE named world's second most popular hotspot for Muslims

UAE, Bahrain move up global rankings topped by Malaysia as Muslim travel market continues to boom

UAE named world's second most popular hotspot for Muslims

The UAE has been ranked the second most popular destination in the global Muslim travel market, according to new research. 

The MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2016, which covers 130 destinations, saw the UAE move up one spot from last year to take the second position behind Malaysia which retained its pole position on the list of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) destinations.

Turkey, Indonesia and Qatar rounded off the top five.

Indonesia climbed two places to take the fourth spot while Bahrain became the biggest mover, jumping four spots to take the 10th position. 

Singapore also retained its pole position for the non-OIC destinations, with Thailand, the UK, South Africa and Hong Kong making up the top five.

The study also revealed that in 2015, there were an estimated 117 million Muslim visitor arrivals globally, representing close to 10 percent of the entire travel market.

This is forecast to grow to 168 million visitors by 2020 equal to 11 percent of the market segment with a market value projected to exceed $200 billion. 

Asia and Europe were also revealed as the two leading regions in the world for attracting Muslim visitors - accounting for 87 percent of the entire market.

Eyad Al Kourdi, senior vice president and general manager, UAE, MasterCard, said: “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 and the UAE remains committed to intensifying its tourism offerings across all segments." 

Fazal Bahardeen, CEO of CrescentRating & HalalTrip, added: “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. 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.”

All 130 destinations in the GMTI were scored against a backdrop of criteria that included suitability as a family holiday destination, the level of services and facilities it provides, accommodation options, marketing initiatives as well as visitor arrivals. 

Each criterion was then weighted to make up the overall index score. This year, two new criteria - air connectivity and visa restrictions - were added to further enhance the Index. 

UAE had an Index score of 74.7 placing it second in the overall combined list. Malaysia scored 81.9 while Turkey posted 73.9. In comparison, the highest scoring non-OIC destination Singapore scored 68.4 with second place Thailand at 59.5.

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