Jakarta (VNA) - Muslim tourists are a potential segment of the global tourism where in 2017, a total of 131 million Muslim tourist arrivals were recorded globally, or up from 121 million in 2016, Antara News reported.

It is estimated that by 2020, the total number of Muslim tourist arrivals across the world is expected to reach 156 million per annum, a figure that has the potential to advance the tourism of a country.

According to the 2018 the Mastercard-Crescent Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) report, the expenditure of global Muslim tourists is projected to reach 220 billion USD in 2020 and is expected to grow by more than 80 billion USD to reach 300 billion USD by 2026.

As a predominantly Muslim country, with a population of 265 million, Indonesia, therefore, is eager to attract Muslim tourists by creating halal tourism programmes.

Indonesian Minister of Tourism Arief Yahya said the country is developing halal tourism destinations and has set a target to attract 5 million foreign tourist arrivals of the halal tourism segment in 2019, or about 25 percent of the foreign tourist arrival target set at 20 million in 2019.

For this, the Ministry of Tourism works with Crescentrating Mastercard to launch the IMTI programme to rank the most tourist-friendly halal destinations in Indonesia, with the criteria specified as used by the Mastercard-Crescent Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) that uses the ACES criteria (Access , Communications, Environment, and Services).

Mastercard Indonesia Director Tommy Singgih said that Indonesia has consistently tried to improve its position at GMTI. In 2015, it was ranked sixth in the world, in 2017, it rose to the third position, and in 2018, it was ranked second along with the United Arab Emirates, Singgih said.

Indonesia is targeting to become the world’s best halal tourist destination 2019 and become the most friendly country to world Muslim tourists in the GMTI version. At the moment, Malaysia is ranked first.

Yahya explained that the high growth of Indonesian halal tourism is very necessary to convince business people of the halal tourism business in the country, which has 3S of interest: the market size is wide, the sustainable growth is high, and the profit spread is large.

He added that the rise of Indonesia to the first rank would make it easier for the country to seize the global halal tourism market, which is projected to reach 220 billion USD by 2020.

There are 10 provinces of Indonesia included in the index (IMTI) this year, namely Aceh, Riau Islands, West Sumatra, Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, East Java, South Sulawesi, and Lombok (West Nusa Tenggara).-VNA