According to new population projections by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, Muslims are the world’s fastest-growing religious group and by 2030 will make up an estimated 25 percent of the world’s population.

Furthermore, in some Muslim-dominated markets, there is a thriving middle class with growing buying power and a new consumer behavior. One effect has been an increase in international trips undertaken by Muslims. To analyze their travel behavior more detailed ITB Berlin commissioned IPK International to conduct a special evaluation of the World Travel Monitor®. In some aspects, Muslim travel behavior differs significantly from other groups. City breaks are more popular than Sun & Beach holidays for instance, and shopping is more important than visiting museums. Increasingly, customers also want to be able to observe their religious customs. A touristic offer that caters to Muslims’ needs represents both a challenge and an opportunity for the travel industry.

Specific aspects of halal travel

According to Fazal Bahardeen, managing director of CrescentRating, the world’s leading expert on halal travel, the difference lies in specific shared values among Muslims that are much stronger than among other communities, regardless of their nationality. Whereas many associate halal merely with the way food is prepared, it actually refers to everything that conforms to traditional Islamic law. For the travel industry that means fulfilling certain faith-based needs of Muslim travelers. This includes preparing food according to halal rules, adapting meal times during Ramadan, offering prayer facilities in hotels, providing separate swimming pools for men and women and offering entertainment that caters towards Muslims.

High growth of Muslims traveling abroad

Currently, the most interesting source markets regarding the demand for international halal travel are Indonesia, India, Turkey, Malaysia, and the Arab countries. According to IPK’s World Travel Monitor, source markets with a predominantly Islamic population showed growth rates that were 40% higher in the past 5 years compared to the rest of the world. Strong growth is also predicted for the years ahead. Thus halal travel offers huge growth potential for destinations around the world.

City breaks top the list

Worldwide City breaks and Sun & Beach holidays are the most popular holiday types. However, the picture looks different for international Islamic travel. Here, City breaks top the list with a market share of over one-third. Second-placed are Tour holidays, which is then followed by Sun & Beach holidays with only around half the market share compared to the total market.

In general, for Muslims, international holidays are less important than for other international travelers. By contrast, business trips, visiting friends and relatives and other leisure trips account for a bigger share of the market. Religious trips and pilgrimages, in particular, play a much greater role and makeup ten percent of foreign trips – which is ten times higher compared to the rest of the world with only one percent market share.

More shopping, less sightseeing

Apart from preferring other types of holidays, Muslims also tend to pursue different activities when traveling. Whenever they visit cities shopping is on top of the list. In contrast, sightseeing – the number one attraction for other travelers –visiting museums, or good food, is less important for this segment. Also, Tour holidays are shaped differently with less focus on sightseeing or museum visits and more focus on nature and shopping instead.

Germany is the most popular destination in Europe

For Muslims traveling abroad, the United Arab Emirates is the most popular destination worldwide. Germany comes second, followed by Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Singapore, which makes it the by far the most popular destination in Europe. Looking at each continent, over 60 percent of trips abroad by Muslims go to Asia (including the Middle East) and around one-third to Europe. By comparison, trips to Africa, North and South America only have a very small share of the market.

Young and highly educated

Measured against all other international travelers worldwide the percentage of female travelers from Islamic countries is below average. However, in recent years their numbers have increased steadily. Muslim travelers are much younger than average, with 75 percent aged between 25 and 44. In terms of education, there is a larger share of those with high education levels.

Additional information on specific topics regarding World Travel Monitor® data from IPK International will be published soon by ITB Berlin. Conclusive travel trend findings for 2018 will also be presented by the end of the year.

Rolf Freitag, CEO of IPK International, will present the findings of the World Travel Monitor® for 2018 at the ITB Future Day during the ITB Berlin Convention as well as forecasts for 2019. The World Travel Monitor® is based on the results of representative interviews with more than 500,000 people in over 60 global travel markets. It has been published for more than 20 years and is recognized as the most widescale continuous survey examining global travel trends.