SINGAPORE - 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.
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.
Rising anti-Muslim sentiment in some Western countries and an increase in Islamist militant attacks are a worry, helping give Asia top marks in the GMTI.
Last year, 108 million Muslim travellers spent US$145 billion, equivalent to 10 per cent of global travel spending, the survey shows. By 2020, this amount is expected to rise to US$200 billion.
"The halal lifestyle is a key component of the global travel industry," Fazal Bahardeen, CrescentRating's chief executive, told Reuters. "More so, because destinations are trying very hard to diversify their tourists."