TAIPEI, Taiwan - In a sign of Taiwan's growing popularity among Muslim travelers, the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) recently ranked Taiwan as a top-10 non-Muslim tourist destination.
Taiwan edged ahead of Japan and attracted more than 440,000 Muslim tourists last year. It is rated as No. 10 in the MasterCard-CrescentRating GMTI list.
Compared with the average, Taiwan stands out in the categories of: safe travel environment, airport services, and Muslim travel needs awareness and reachout, according to the GMTI.
Hong Kong is another popular destination, ranked at 7th among non-Muslim destination.
Among Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) members, Malaysia tops the destination list among Muslim travelers. Other top countries on the list, in order, are: Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
For non-OIC countries, Singapore tops the list, and is followed by Thailand, the UK, South Africa and France.
The Global Muslim Travel Index gave Malaysia an overall score of 83.8. Turkey is pegged at 73.8; United Arab Emirates at 72.1; Taiwan has a score of 46.2.
Despite the scores, statistics show Saudi Arabia attracted the most Muslim tourists (10.2 million) in 2014. Turkey took the second place, attracting 8.1 million.
A Market with Great Potential
A study found the number of Muslim travelers amounted to 108 million in 2014, which represented a market worth US$145 billion. The number of visitors is projected to grow to 150 million in 2020, representing a market worth US$200 billion (S$274.8 billion).
With a population 1.7 billion strong, the Muslim market is targeted by governments around the world. Taiwan is also in the fray, investing much in order to win the market. The Tourism Bureau has set the goal of attracting one million Muslim travelers within 10 years.
A total of 65 restaurants and hotels in Taiwan have attained the Halal certification. The Taipei Station as well as 13 national scenery parks are equipped with prayer rooms.
Asia-Pacific More Popular among Muslims
The GMTI looks at in-depth data covering 100 destinations, creating an overall index based on a number of criteria. This is the first time such thorough insights have been provided into one of the fastest-growing tourism sector.
The GMTI's rating is based on the availability and convenience of halal food and prayer rooms in airports, shopping centres, hotels, etc.
GMTI40, which is updated quarterly around the year, tracks the average score of the top 20 OIC and non-OIC destinations.
The average score for the 40 destinations currently stands at 56, while the average score for the complete 100 destinations stands at 43.8. Region-wise, Asia-Pacific destinations lead with an average score of 54.