Halal has never looked so good for Singapore. A survey ranked the Asian country as the top non-Islamic destination for Muslim tourists, weeks after official data showed overall visitor numbers fell last year for the first time since 2009.
Multicultural Singapore beat Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as established tourist hotspots such as France, the United States and Britain, to become the most "friendly" non-Muslim destination for Muslim visitors, the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) compiled by travel firm CrescentRating and MasterCard Inc shows. Singapore also trumped some Muslim countries including the Maldives and Egypt after scoring more points for family friendliness, safety and service, according to the GMTI, released on Wednesday. Travellers from 100 countries were surveyed.
Australia was well down the list at number 13 among non-Muslim countries, behind other Western nations such as the UK, USA, France and Switzerland. Australia welcomed 525,000 Muslim tourists in 2014, according to the report.
Muslim tourists are one of the fastest growing travel groups. Attracting them is all the more crucial given a slowdown in the economies of Europe and China, the source of many global travellers. Muslim travellers look for restaurants serving food that is halal, or permissible under Islamic law, as well as readily accessible mosques or prayer rooms. They are also conscious of safety.
Last year, 108 million Muslim travellers spent $US145 billion ($A185 billion), equivalent to 10 per cent of global travel spending, the survey shows. By 2020, this amount is expected to rise to $US200 billion.
"The halal lifestyle is a key component of the global travel industry," Fazal Bahardeen, CrescentRating's chief executive said. "More so, because destinations are trying very hard to diversify their tourists."
To read the full report, click here.
Top 10 non-Islamic countries: GMTI 2015 index
3. United Kingdom
4. South Africa
7. Hong Kong
15. Sri Lanka
16. Bosnia & Herzogovina
19. New Zealand