Malaysia and Singapore have retained their positions as the top destinations in the global Muslim travel market, according to the most comprehensive research released on this the sector.

The MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2016, which covers 130 destinations, saw Malaysia retain its number one position on the list of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) destinations with UAE moving up one spot to second place.

Singapore also retained its pole position for the non-OIC destinations, with Thailand, United Kingdom, South Africa and Hong Kong making up the top five.

The study also revealed that in 2015, there were an estimated 117 million Muslim visitor arrivals globally, representing close to 10 percent of the entire travel market.

This is forecasted to grow to 168 million visitors by 2020 representing 11 percent of the market segment with a market value spend projected to exceed US$200 billion.

Asia and Europe were the two leading regions in the world for attracting Muslim visitors – accounting for 87 percent of the entire market.

“The MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index 2016 has now become the number one tool for destinations around the world to realign their strategies to reach out to the Muslim consumer,” said Fazal Bahardeen, CEO of CrescentRating & HalalTrip.

“One of the biggest trends we are seeing is non-OIC destinations making a concerted effort to attract the Muslim tourist and they now represent over 63 percent of the destinations covered in the GMTI. For example, Japan and Philippines have taken some major steps over the last few months to diversify their visitor arrivals and boost their economy in the process.”

“Many already successful destinations around the world are looking to diversify their visitor base to maintain tourist growth rates in today’s increasingly competitive travel market,” said Matthew Driver, Group Executive, Global Products & Solutions, Asia Pacific, MasterCard.

“The fast growing Muslim travel segment is an opportunity in plain sight but in order to benefit from it, it is crucial to understand the needs and preferences of Muslim travelers and how to adapt and tailor products and services for them. We believe that the GMTI provides real value to businesses and governments looking to tap into this important and growing market segment.”

The GMTI 2016 is the most comprehensive research available on one of the fastest-growing tourism sectors in the world, which represents 10 percent of the entire travel economy.

The GMTI looks at in-depth data covering 130 destinations, up from 100 covered in the 2015 index. This is the first time such thorough insights have been provided on one of the world’s fastest-growing tourism sectors.

The Index helps destinations, travel services and investors to track the health and growth of this travel segment while benchmarking their individual progress in reaching out to this growing market.