Islamic tourism’s growth potential is increasingly recognised worldwide. It represents the largest and most lucrative untapped niche market in global tourism – the Muslim travellers. Traditionally, Islamic tourism means religious travel such as Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage. Over the years, this term has expanded to include Muslims who travel for the purpose of business and leisure. This new development in the world of Islamic tourism has given rise to the need for industry players which include restaurants, airlines, hotels and tour operators to adjust their products and services so as to cater to the needs of this growing market segment. With a market potential of more than 50 Muslim countries and no less than 1.6 billion Muslims, tremendous opportunities await those who are willing to meet the demands for Muslim-friendly tourism products and services.
A survey jointly conducted by DinarStandard and CrescentRating estimated that global Muslim tourist market in 2011 was approximately USD126.1 billion in outbound expenditure – which constituted 12.3% of total global outbound tourism expenditure in 2011 – and this amount does not include those of Hajj and Umrah. Muslim tourist expenditure growth is also estimated to be approximately 4.79% per annum on average from 2012 – 2020 and by the year 2020, growth in Muslim travel is expected to touch 4.8%, significantly higher than the global figure of only 3.8%. The survey also revealed that of the Top 20 countries exhibiting the largest growth in tourism expenditure between 2005 –2010, 25% is from Muslim-majority OIC-member countries. Offering tourism products and services that are Shariah-compliant opens them up to this increasingly affluent tourist market that would otherwise not spend their money on them, thus enabling the products and services to be enjoyed by everyone, i.e. both non-Muslims and Muslims.
Already a leader in Islamic finance and the halal industry, Malaysia is in pole position to drive the Islamic tourism sector. With advantages including an extensive and well-developed halal network, good infrastructure, consistent economic growth rate, government-backed business incentives as well as political and economic stability, Malaysia is an ideal Muslim-friendly destination which also appeals to non-Muslims. Surveys conducted by DinarStandard and CrescentRating rank Malaysia highly as a favourite destination among Muslim travellers, presenting endless opportunities for Malaysian hoteliers, travel agencies and product owners to reap the benefits of Islamic tourism.