Singapore is tops with Muslim travellers

Tourists and visitors outside the newly upgraded Sultan Mosque on Jan 16, 2016.
Tourists and visitors outside the newly upgraded Sultan Mosque on Jan 16, 2016. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Singapore has been named the friendliest destination for Muslim travellers among non-Muslim countries for the fourth year in a row.

The Republic received high scores for its safety, ease of communication and number of halal dining options, enabling it to beat the likes of Thailand, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Hong Kong in the annual Global Muslim Travel Index.

Singapore rose one spot to eighth in the overall list, which ranked 130 destinations based on 11 criteria, such as visa requirements and ease of access to prayer spaces.

The top five spots were filled by members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, with Malaysia taking top spot. It was followed by the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Indonesia and Qatar.

The Muslim travel segment is one of the world's fastest-growing tourism sectors with an estimated 117 million Muslim travellers last year, representing close to 10 per cent of the entire travel economy. The number is expected to reach 168 million by 2020, with a market value exceeding US$200 billion (S$273 billion).

The growth is driven by an expanding Muslim population, especially among the middle class, and more Muslim-friendly travel services and facilities.

Internet access and the adoption of smartphones have also made travel planning easier, added the report. Muslim-majority countries boast some of the world's highest rates of smartphone use.

Singapore welcomed 2.6 million Muslim travellers last year, who made up about 17 per cent of total arrivals (15.2 million).

Travel agency Chan Brothers Travel said its Muslim customers, which make up 10 to 20 per cent of inbound clients, tend to travel in larger groups. About 14 per cent of the resident population here identify as Muslims, its head of marketing communications, Ms Jane Chang, noted.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore is tops with Muslim travellers'. Print Edition | Subscribe