Tourists have chosen Qatar as the fifth friendliest vacation destination in the world for Muslims, according to the latest edition of an international index that tracks “halal-friendly travel.”
The Gulf state has moved up three spots on the Global Muslim Travel Index 2015 since last year, when it was scored eighth out of 29 Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states. It’s also up five spots from its 10th-place ranking in 2013 and 2012.
The index is compiled by Islamic travel company Crescentrating and credit card firm MasterCard, which annually score 100 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.
For the fifth year in a row, Malaysia was ranked the top destination of choice by Muslim travelers, despite two plane crashes last year. Turkey came in second, followed by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Indonesia.
In terms of non-OIC countries, Singapore ranked first, in large part for having one of the best halal food environments. Thailand placed second, followed by the UK, South Africa and France. The US ranked eighth.
This year’s report also scored the country highly for its airport facilities, safe travel environment, dining options and ease of access to prayer spaces.
However, Qatar lost points for lacking family friendly activities, hotel accommodations that catered specifically to Muslims and a perceived lack of enough marketing campaigns to the travel demographic.
Notably, the majority of tourists to Qatar hail from Gulf countries, suggesting that many travelers who visit here are Muslim.
Last month, the Qatar Tourism Authority stated that visitors from the GCC increased 3 percent to 1.12 million in 2014. The second-largest group of visitors hailed from Asia, which saw a 20 percent jump, to 782,904 people.
Last year, QTA launched an ambitious tourism strategy with the goal of attracting between 6.7 million and 7.4 million tourists annually by 2030.
The country’s plan involves promoting and funding programs such as sports, education, authentic Qatari and Arab cultural experiences and the nation’s “sun and beach” assets, among others.
Through this focus, Qatar appears to be carving out a niche in the region that avoids competing head-to-head with other destinations such as Dubai, Bahrain and Oman.
Here’s the full report: