JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has been rated among the world’s top Muslim-friendly holiday destinations in a survey released on Wednesday by Crescentrating, a Muslim travel consultancy based in Singapore.
Jeddah also landed in the top 10 cities as shopping destinations.
The kingdom landed in 4th place, with Malaysia topping the list, followed by Egypt for 2nd place, and the United Arab Emirates and Turkey tied for 3rd place.
According to Crescentrating’s website, the ranking was done “based on our view of it being a good holiday destination for 2013 and the level of halal food availability, prayer facilities, Halal friendly accommodation, etc. at the main tourist spots of the destination.”
Fifty nations were covered in the survey, half of which are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Of the nations surveyed, Malaysia scored 8.3 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.
Egypt placed No. 2 with 6.7, the UAE and Turkey both scored 6.6, and Saudi Arabia was 4th with a 6.4 grade.
Tied for 6th place with a score of 6.1 were Indonesia, Morocco and Jordan scored 6.1, followed by Brunei, Qatar, Tunisia and Oman, all with a score of 6.0. All of these countries are OIC members.
Malaysia topped Crescentrating’s list for the 3rd year. “It is still the best place to enjoy your holiday and at the same time be completely worry free when it comes to finding Halal food and prayer places almost everywhere,” the report said.
“This year sees the entry of Saudi Arabia as a ‘holiday’ destination in our ranking, since more and more Muslim travelers are spending their ‘holidays’ in performing Umrah or as a part of a trip taking them for Umrah as well as to some other destinations such as Jordan and Turkey,” said Crescentrating’s report on the survey results.
“Saudi Arabia is followed by Indonesia, which has huge potential in attracting the Muslim travelers. Indonesia has recently focused on making it easier to locate halal restaurants and other services for Muslim visitors. Morocco, Jordan, Brunei and Qatar make up the remaining destinations in our top 10. Each of them offering a unique experience while catering to the Muslim traveler’s needs, said the report.
For the non-OIC destinations, the survey noted that accessibility of halal food at the main tourist hotspots in Singapore are even comparable to some of the OIC destinations.
Singapore was No. 1 in the list of non-OIC member destinations with a score of 6.3, and 5th overall.
Coming in 2nd place was Bosnia & Herzegovina, which is emerging as a popular destination for Muslim travelers. Thailand and South Africa are next on the list. “Both these destinations have strong halal certification bodies making it easier for visitors to find halal certified food outlets while holidaying there,” it said.
Completing the top 10 in this category are India, UK, Sri Lanka, Australia, Germany and Hong Kong.
“Although these destinations cater to the needs of Muslim travelers in parts of the destination, accessibility of halal food and prayer places are still not that straightforward in these destinations,” said the survey.
In terms of cities as shopping destinations, Dubai pipped Kuala Lumpur for the No. 1 spot, according to the survey which rated the presence of halal food and prayer facilities at shopping malls.
Istanbul, Jeddah, Singapore, Cairo, Abu Dhabi, New Delhi, London and Doha completed the top-10 shopping destinations.
Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport were rated among the friendliest to Muslim travelers.
Spending by Muslim tourists is growing faster than the global rate and is forecast to reach $192 billion a year by 2020, up from $126 billion in 2011, according to a study by Crescentrating and another company released last year.