The GDP impact of Muslim travel in the Middle East is forecast to hit $36 billion by 2020, up 21% from $29.7 billion in 2017 and representing 19% of the total global GDP generated by the end of the decade, according to research unveiled this week.
The Muslim travel industry will create 1.2 million jobs (total direct and indirect employment) in the region by 2020, more than double the 528,000 currently employed, the ‘Global Economic Impact of Muslim Tourism and Future Growth Projection: 2017-2020’ report by Salam Standard reveals.
One of the world’s main beneficiaries of inbound Muslim tourist spend, the Middle East received $30.5 billion in 2017, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey the top three recipients. The figure is projected to rise to $36.8 billion by 2020, or 24% of the global total.
Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia relies on Muslim travellers the most for total inbound tourism GDP, which is forecast to reach 78% of its total by 2020, the report reveals. The Kingdom is also the sixth largest beneficiary by country worldwide in terms of Muslim tourism tax impact, which reached $500 million in 2017.
When it comes to outbound Muslim spend, the Middle East is by far the largest source market worldwide, contributing $62.2 billion in 2017 and forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2020, with a 59% market share.
Travellers from Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the biggest spenders on outbound Muslim travel, with their share of the global total predicted to reach a staggering 41% by the end of the decade.
“The figures speak for themselves; the Muslim travel sector is playing an increasingly significant role in the economic wealth of Middle Eastern countries, particularly Gulf nations with vibrant and growing tourism industries and ambitious plans to develop them further, namely, the UAE and Saudi Arabia,” said Faeez Fadhlillah, Co-Founder and CEO of Salam Standard and Muslim-friendly hotel booking portal, Tripfez.
“The robust growth in inbound and outbound Muslim tourism expenditure forecast for the region presents exciting opportunities for Middle East countries and destinations across the globe, promising a boost in GDP, tax receipts and job creation for those who tap into this potential.”
The GDP impact of the global Muslim travel sector is projected to reach $183 billion by 2020, up from $148 billion in 2017. The industry will directly and indirectly employ 5.6 million people worldwide by the end of the decade, according to Salam Standard’s report.
Middle East destinations looking to capitalise on this projected growth should also look outside the region to key Muslim travel source markets, according to the study, which found Asia’s outbound Muslim tourist spend was forecast to grow to $29.6 billion by 2020.
Indonesia, China and Malaysia will contribute 17% of total global Muslim outbound spend by 2020, more than Europe’s 15%, fuelled by a young and aspirational population and an increasingly-affluent middle class who are hungry to travel the world in a faith-compatible way, whether for business or leisure.
The report provides travel industry stakeholders, including airlines, airports, hotels, travel start-ups, technology firms, tourism boards, Destination Management Companies and Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), with advice on how to best cater and market to the global Muslim travel community.
“One in three people worldwide will identify as Muslim by 2060 and to disregard this trend would be foolhardy,” said Fadhlillah.
“With the Muslim population growth at 70% compared to the global average of 32%, the Muslim travel market presents many untapped opportunities for countries and organisations that successfully address its needs - and an enormous threat for those who ignore it.”