National tourism organisations must make information on Muslim-friendly products and services accessible to Muslim travellers
Asia Pacific (APAC) tourism boards have dominated the top 10 rankings of the report, How Online Ready Are NTOs for Muslim Travellers in 2022?, for the third consecutive edition. They comprise over 62 per cent of the top spots and widen the gap between themselves and their European peers.
Launched at the 3rd World Islamic Tourism Conference (WITC), the 2022 report resulted from a first-time research collaboration between the Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) and Pear Anderson, a consultancy specialising in the Southeast Asian tourism industry and the Muslim-friendly travel market.
The report examines the online resources national tourism organisations (NTOs) from the top 50 most visited non-Muslim (non-OIC) destinations worldwide have created to support Muslim-friendly travel, including information about Muslim-friendly food, prayer spaces and hotels.
“This is the 3rd edition of the How Online Ready Are NTOs for Muslim Travellers in 2022?, and for me, it was fascinating. We looked at the top 50 most visited destinations that are not Muslim countries and what kind of online resources they’ve created around Muslim travel,” said Hannah Pearson, Managing Director of Pear Anderson.
Great efforts by APAC destinations
“We look at non-Muslim destinations because it is interesting to see what kind of focus these NTOs are placing on the Muslim market. Are they seeing it as an important target market? Or are they not emphasising it at all? In fact, this year, over 62 per cent of the top destinations that put together these online resources are in APAC. The last edition in 2020 was 60 per cent.”
She noted a massive growth in APAC destinations to create Muslim-friendly resources as the destinations recognised the value of the Muslim travel market. They wanted to ensure Muslim travellers felt welcomed and comfortable in their countries.
Out of the 50 destinations studied, 54 per cent of them now have some level of Muslim-friendly travel information, compared to just 36 per cent in 2019’s inaugural report, and up from 46 per cent in 2020, a signal of the continued importance destinations are placing on Muslim travellers to boost tourism recovery.
In the 2022 edition, Korea and Taiwan came first, with Japan and Hong Kong jointly in second place and Singapore in third place.
Making information accessible
“For European NTOs, a few destinations like Austria and Switzerland put together some limited resources. They might have a webpage, for example, listing some halal restaurants or a few mosques. But, the interesting thing is that they almost seem to associate Muslim travellers with Middle Eastern travellers.”
Due to the association, some destinations would only provide the necessary information in Arabic. This situation will be an issue for Muslims who do not speak the language. She pointed out that Muslims were living in different parts of the world, not limited to Muslim-majority countries.
“These tourism boards need to consider making this information more accessible. Also, think beyond that paradigm of Muslim travellers equal to Middle Eastern travellers because some of them can be from Southeast Asia or Europe,” Pearson highlighted.
“Tourism boards need to reflect on the fact that, one, Muslim travellers are worldwide. So, you can’t just limit it to only the Arabic language or only the English language. Ideally, you would have it in any language your travellers come from.
“Next, to create a centralised place where Muslim-friendly resources are available, then integrate it into the rest of the resources.”
She said it was good for NTOs to provide suggested itineraries for Muslim-friendly travel. However, rather than putting the information separately from the general itineraries, it will be better to integrate it with the rest of the information where Muslim travellers can filter through the options.
“We need to see more of an integration of these resources. It is like a natural progression to make it easy for Muslim travellers to find this information. The easier it is for these travellers to find this information, the more likely they will consider the destination Muslim-friendly and put it on their list of destinations to visit.”
The full report can be accessed at https://www.pearanderson.com/muslim-nto/.