COUNTRIES will need Muslim-friendly tourist industries if they want a slice of one of the world’s fastest-growing traveler markets.
Millennial Muslims—those aged between 18 and 36—are projected to spend more than $100 billion annually on traveling by 2025, almost double last year’s figure, according to a report from MasterCard and Muslim travel web site HalalTrip. All age groups belonging to the religion are expected to spend around three times that much.
“It’s definitely an overlooked segment the broader travel industry should look at and be prepared to cater to,” said Douglas Quinby, an Atlanta-based travel analyst at research firm Phocuswright Inc. “There are some countries, whose populations are predominantly Muslim, that are growing very fast, where the population is increasingly becoming middle-class and and the demand for travel, both leisure tourism and pilgrimage travel, is growing quite significantly.”
For now, the top destinations for millennial Muslims are Malaysia and Indonesia, nations where the religion’s followers make up a majority of the population. However, the next popular holiday spots are Japan, Thailand and Australia, non-Muslim countries where tourism is a key engine of economic growth. Some are starting to recognize the opportunities.
In Japan’s Okayama prefecture, the local tourism industry has started certifying Muslim-friendly restaurants, hotels and other facilities with a special logo. Local businesses around the country are starting to reach out to mosques to learn about Islam and better cater to Muslim tourists, according to Halal Media Japan Co. Ltd, an online information portal for Muslim visitors.
South Korea has organized a Halal-themed restaurant festival in an effort to boost tourism receipts after a decline in Chinese visitors due to tensions over missile deployments. In Australia, however, challenges remain. A survey of more than 2,000 people this week found that nearly half supported a partial ban on Muslim immigrants. The number of Muslim international travelers is expected to grow to 156 million by 2020, partly due to the growth of the religion’s population: It’s expected to reach nearly 3 billion worldwide by 2060, a 70-percent jump from 2015, according to the report. Come 2030 almost a third of the world’s population aged 15-29 is forecast to be Muslims.
“The Muslim traveler market is growing rapidly as a highly lucrative segment in contemporary tourism and will be entering their peak earning, spending and traveling life stage within the next five to 10 years,” said Fazal Bahardeen, chief executive of HalalTrip.