Qatar has maintained its position as the fifth friendliest nation to visit for Muslim travelers, according to this year’s edition of an international index that tracks “halal-friendly” tourism.
Qatar’s ranking comes a month after Singapore-based HalalTrip listed Doha among the top 10 cities to visit by the “trip advisor for Muslims.”
According to the Global Muslim Travel Index 2016, released this week, Malaysia is once again the top choice among the 29 Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states ranked.
But this year, the UAE has unseated Turkey as the second best place to visit. Turkey is now third, and Indonesia fourth, pushing Saudi Arabia down to sixth.
The index is compiled by Islamic travel company Crescentrating and credit card firm MasterCard, which this year scored 130 countries on factors such as ease of travel for Muslims, access to halal restaurants and the provision of prayer rooms in airports, shopping malls and hotels.
In terms of non-OIC countries, Singapore once again ranked first, in large part for having one of the best halal food environments. Thailand placed second, followed by the UK, South Africa and Hong Kong.
Qatar’s overall score is 70.5 on a 100-point scale. It fared particularly well in the following categories:
- Ease of access to prayer spaces (100);
- Halal dining options (90);
- Safe travel environment (90); and
- Air connectivity – how easy it is to get to by plane (87.7)
However, it got only a so-so score when it came to hotel accommodation options that catered specifically to Muslims (54.0), and did poorly with marketing efforts that reached out to the travel demographic (26.2).
Still, Qatar and the GCC nations ranked heads and shoulders above much of its competition.
In a statement, Raghav Prasad, Mastercard’s general manager of Gulf countries, said:
“The GCC is at the forefront of understanding the needs and preferences of Muslim travelers and how to adapt and tailor products and services for them.
The Muslim travel market is flourishing in each of the GCC states and these high rankings are further testament to the continuous growth and development of this sector in these countries. “
Tourism is a key part of Qatar’s strategy to diversify its economy, and the government has been increasing efforts to attract more travels to the country in recent years.
Many of them hail from other GCC countries including Saudi Arabia, suggesting a heavy prevalence of Muslim tourists.
In 2015, visitors from the Gulf accounted for 44 percent of tourists to Qatar, according to government figures. That’s up 16 percent from the previous year, or more than 1.3 million people.
But Qatar also seems to be an increasingly attractive place for visitors from India and the UK.
The Qatar Tourism Authority is aiming to attract between 6.7 million and 7.4 million tourists annually by 2030, and saw nearly 3 million guests travel to the country last year.