The UAE has emerged among the top 10 travel destinations during Ramadan among Muslim travellers this year, according to a new study.
The UAE ranked eighth in the list topped by Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, according to the first Ramadan Travel Report released by MasterCard and Singapore-based halal tourism online platform CrescentRating.
The UAE is likely to emerge as the second most popular destination in 2022, and the top travel destination during Ramadan in 2027.
The report studied 49 destinations, excluding Saudi Arabia as its most important travel destination for Muslims, and took into account the average daytime temperatures, fasting duration and the MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index 2016 scores forecast until 2030 to draw the ranking. The report did not study the number of expected visitors to these destinations.
Ramadan is expected to take place in cooler months for the next few years after 2023, making destinations such as the UAE, Qatar and Oman more attractive for Muslim travellers, according to the report. Other destinations in the Middle East such as Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia are also expected to benefit from the lower temperatures.
“The growing trend by Muslims to travel during the fasting period will [also] see destinations in the [Arabian Gulf] region become the most attractive by 2023,” the report said.
Last year, there were around 117 million Muslim visitors globally, or 10 per cent of the entire travel market, according to the travel index.
The figure is expected to touch 168 million visitors by 2020, or 11 per cent of the travel market, generating US$200 billion in revenues.
“Ramadan travel has been largely ignored by the industry despite the growing trend in the last few years,” said Fazal Bahardeen, the chief executive of CrescentRating and online portal for halal-friendly holiday packages Singapore-based HalalTrip.
Local start-ups are also tapping into the trend. Dubai-based Islamic travel website Irhal.com has identified Dubai as the fourth most popular destination after Amman, Bahrain and Beirut among its users this year through May, based on 700,000 visitors to the website.
“As far as travel during Ramadan is concerned, the generally low rates offered by hotels in Dubai during this month are a major attraction for tourists,” said Irfan Ahmad, the chief executive of Irhal.com. “The safety and security of the city and late- night shopping – particularly during the last few days of Ramadan – are big draws for Dubai. Halal food is also a major advantage during Ramadan.”
The website lists more than 90 city guides on halal restaurants, mosques and prayer timings besides places to travel.
“An increasing number of governments are boosting their efforts to attract more Muslim visitors to their countries,” said Safdar Khan, the group head of Islamic payments for South East Asia at MasterCard.
Saudi Arabia, as part of its National Transformation Plan, expects to increase the number of Haj pilgrims to 2.5 million by 2020 up from 1.5 million, and more than double Umrah pilgrims to 15 million from 6 million at present as part of its religious tourism drive.