The names of the most attractive countries for Muslim tourists have been announced. Indonesia ranked first in the ranking of the most popular destinations for Islamic tourism, says the annual report Global Muslim Travel Index 2019 compiled by the CrescentRating and MasterCard. In addition to Indonesia, Malaysia has maintained a leadership position as well. Both countries have scored 78 points in the ranking. Malaysia ranked first and Indonesia was second in the 2018 ranking. Turkey ranked third with 75 points in the top ten countries for Muslim tourists. Moreover, Saudi Arabia (72 points), United Arab Emirates (71 points), Qatar (68 points), Morocco (67 points), Bahrain (66 points), Oman (66 points) and Brunei (65 points) have also been indicated in the rating. Azerbaijan ranks 20th in the ranking of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries. Our country has received 53 points in the research on criteria such as perfection, clean environment, service quality and communication.
According to the results of the study, the number of Muslim tourists is 10-12 percent of the total tourism market. The figure is expected to reach 168 million by 2020 or 11% of the total tourist flow. It is projected that the costs of Muslim tourists will exceed $ 200 billion for the mentioned date.
"It is a pleasure for us that these countries have ranked high in the MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2019. These indicators highlight the development of the region and the rapidly growing demand for the Muslim tourist market. This is an expedient step, as the Muslim tourist sector is one of the leading forces of long-term sustainable economic development," said Raghu Malhotra, President of Mastercard's Middle East and Africa Region.
GMTI is a study of 130 tourist destinations that provides a comprehensive overview of the fastest growing tourism sector in the world. This index is an indicator that allows tourist destinations, travel services and investors to follow the development and change in the Muslim tourism industry. Each of the 130 tourism destinations is based on criteria such as compatibility of family recreation, service level, proposed opportunities and options, marketing initiatives, and tourist flow. Two more criteria, such as air transport and obtaining visas, are also being considered this year. These qualities are generally evaluated and a single index for each destination is compiled.
On the website of the corporation, it is noted that the Halal Travel market is rapidly developing. One of the main reasons for the development is the growing number of Muslims in the world. Thus, Muslims continue to be the fastest growing religious group in the world. The youth segment also has a special place in this growth. Thus, Muslim tourists prefer to go on a Ramadan journey during the fasting period, and they choose places that are rich in religious tourism. Tourists prefer to visit Umrah more. Business travel among Muslim tourists has also been significantly improved. They travel to developing countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey as MICE tourism. These countries serve Muslim travelers by adapting their products and services. What steps should be taken to advance the rating of Azerbaijan in the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI)? Of course, there must be some reasonable plans to attract travel markets in a period when tourism becomes a priority.
According to head of Millennium Tourism & Congress Company, Ruslan Guliyev, tourism of Muslim countries is a very serious market for us. "I think we should work in this direction systematically. We must give priority to the concept of "halal service". Experts should be invited for the establishment of this institution in Azerbaijan. In this regard, work should be carried out not only in hotels, but also in public catering facilities and beaches," he said.
According to the expert, hotels should be established with the concept of "halal service" as well. So, in the religious holidays, conditions should be created for the various rituals of tourists. "I think we can expand our activities in this direction. There are tourists traveling from Indonesia and Malaysia to Umrah every year, so they rest in second countries also while they are on a long-term return trip. For example, they choose Turkey as a transit country. Azerbaijan is very lucky because it is situated on transit. We must be ready for mass tourism in this direction," he noted.
Rahman Guliyev, director of Luna Travel Agency, believes that Azerbaijan has the potential to be in the leading positions and even first in the ranking of the GMTI. "Tourists coming to Azerbaijan during the survey mention the high level of public order preservation as the main goal of visiting our country. Because everyone in our country is treated equally regardless of language and religion. There is no such tolerant country anywhere in the world. This means that our country is free and that public order is maintained at a high level. If a Muslim comes to Azerbaijan from Saudi Arabia, Oman or Qatar, he will testify to the attitude towards tourists, including Muslim tourists in Azerbaijan," the director said.
According to the expert, the information base in Azerbaijan's tourism sector is already rich. "We are trying to spread the maximum information to the whole world. For this, online television such as Travel.TV has appeared. This channel, in its turn, is engaged in the promotion of Azerbaijan. This broadcaster, which is non-profit, has a great influence," he noted.
Guliyev added that the level of the service sector is satisfactory enough. "In our country, Muslim or non-Muslim tourists are provided with services at a level appropriate to their attributes and mentality. This means that there are multicultural traditions here. Irrespective of race, religion, it is equitable for all people. It was suggested to create hotels and beaches for Muslims in the future, according to the tourism practice in Turkey. Alcoholic beverages are completely prohibited in these places, men and women rest in separate beaches, and so on. I think that all the necessary conditions are created for tourists coming to Azerbaijan, whether Christian or Muslim. We are ready to provide them with the highest level of service we can," he said.