Japan came in No.3 in a list of preferred destinations among Muslim millennial travellers – and here’s why

It’s no surprise that the largest group of Muslim millennial travellers originate from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Turkey.

Which is why we didn’t blink an eye when the Mastercard-HalalTrip Muslim Millennial Report 2017 (MMTR2017) revealed that these travellers were heading to Malaysia (No.1) and Indonesia (No.2).

But when Japan came in third on the “preferred destination choice” list, we did a double take.

As it turns out, the seemingly homogeneous country that is famous for anime, sushi and cherry blossoms, has taken steps to cater to the growing Muslim millennial traveller segment.

And for good reason.

MMTR2017 sought responses from 372 Muslim respondents aged 18 to 36, with the vast majority (88%) of them originating from Asia and the Pacific.

Research projects that expenditure from Muslim millennial travellers alone is expected to  surpass $100 billion (S$136 billion) by 2025.

When looking at the Muslim travel segment overall, it is is estimated to reach $300 billion by 2026.

Screengrab from MMTR2017

That’s a massive and rapidly growing consumer segment.

But more should be done to cater to this segment, says Ms Akashah Q, an executive director at Muslim consumer consultancy Ogilvy Noor, which is part of the Ogilvy & Mather network.

And it all starts with understanding and catering to the unique needs of this rapidly growing segment.

Business Insider attended an event to reveal the report’s findings.

A panel of individuals who were involved in the report’s research was also present to take questions from the floor.

They included Ms Akashah; Elevated’s founder and principal consultant Ms Nisha Abu Bakar; HalalTrip’s marketing manager Ms Raudha Zaini; and MasterCard’s vice-president of consumer products Ms Aisha Islam.

During the discussion, they addressed the big question: What do Muslim millennial travellers look for?

They are simply looking for “new emerging destinations that are authentic, as they no longer want what has been tried and tested”, says Ms Nisha.

In fact, they really aren’t all that different from non-Muslim millennials – but they won’t compromise on their faith.

Countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan have gotten ahead of the pack when it comes to catering to Muslim millennial travellers because they have a very strong Muslim-oriented infrastructure.

For example, finding a bidet in hotels in Malaysia is the norm, Ms Nisha tells Business Insider.

And Japan is filled with local halal food options, she added.

Simply put, the report finds that Muslim millennial travellers are looking for authenticity, accessibility, and affordability when they travel.

And brands need to reach out to these consumers before, during, and after their trip, if they want to remain in the foreground.

“Sensitivity (to the needs of these Muslim travellers) needs to go up” and companies need to remember that their “soft infrastructure is also very important”, says Ms Nisha.

“Sixty per cent of Muslim millennials know that global brands aren’t talking to them. But if (these brands) do, then they will gain a loyal following”, adds Ms Akashah.