REGIONAL PARTNERSHIPS AND INDUSTRY READINESS AMONG KEY FACTORS TO ATTRACT MUSLIM TOURISTS TO MALAYSIA POST-COVID-19

At the Halal In Travel Global Summit 2021, Director-General of Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC), Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip Haji Hasan said that tourism industry players should leverage on Malaysia’s diverse cultures and beautiful natural assets to appeal to the Muslim tourist market (Picture: Lata Berkoh National Park, Pahang. Source: Tourism Malaysia)

PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA, 19 JULY 2021: Among the key steps towards establishing a more robust Muslim-Friendly landscape in Malaysia are regional cooperation, industry preparedness, and an enabling environment. 

These were the main points brought up by Malaysian speakers invited to present at the Halal In Travel Global Summit (HITGS) 2021 held from 13 to 15 July. Being the inaugural edition of the event, HITGS 2021 placed a main goal on addressing the key challenges in serving the Muslim travel market for the post-COVID-19 world, and witnessed participation of speakers and guests from all over the world throughout its duration.

The Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture Malaysia (MOTAC), Hon. Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri, was one of several keynote speakers at the conference.

She noted the potential of the Muslim travel market beyond COVID-19 especially within the ASEAN region. “As a firm believer in growth through partnerships and collaborations, I see that ASEAN, as a region, is one of the top Muslim-friendly destinations in the world. We, in the region, can take advantage of this to provide a seamless and memorable experience for Muslim tourists travelling in the region.”

“We can all benefit from attracting these travellers, who are looking for a worry-free experience when they travel across the region, hence Malaysia is looking forward to collaborating with our ASEAN neighbours on this,” she elaborated.

In 2019, there were 160 million Muslim international arrivals globally. Although the pandemic had massively disrupted the growth, CrescentRating has projected that the market will return to its 2019 levels by 2023. The Minister was hopeful for a rebound in travel with destinations expediting COVID-19 vaccinations programmes and establishing travel protocols and guidelines on vaccination passports.

With Malaysia being placed first in the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2021 that was launched during HITGS 2021, she further urged tourism industry practitioners to give more attention to the Muslim tourist market. “I call upon our industry stakeholders and players to continue their efforts in ensuring the Muslim travel market is continuously tapped into, whilst also placing focus on developing and promoting the Islamic Tourism (IT) and Muslim-friendly travel and hospitality (MFTH) segments towards greater sustainability and national economic prosperity.”

Director-General of ITC, Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip Haji Hasan, who took part as a panel speaker in the session “Readying OIC Destinations for Halal Travel”, said that Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality concept embraced sustainability and inclusivity, and that industry players needed to be prepared to serve the market once travel borders reopened.

“It is known that the Islamic tourism (IT) and Muslim-friendly tourism and hospitality (MFTH) segments are niche but lucrative ones. Tourism industry players are growing more interested and aware of the highly-sought potentials those segments hold,” he stated.

He also noted that Malaysia’s success in tapping into the market was due to the deep understanding that industry players had and their response to serve the market with appropriate products and services. He said: “Since ITC’s establishment in 2009, we have played a crucial role by developing the capacity and capabilities of industry players in embracing the IT and MFTH concept — which ITC has reviewed and expanded recently by adding the element of hospitality — through capacity building, training, research, industry development, and standards and certification. Among ITC’s key initiatives were the Muslim Friendly Accommodation Recognition (MFAR) programme and the Muslim-Friendly Tour Guide training.”

“First introduced in 2019, MFAR is a marketing tool for hotels to assure their Muslim clientele‘s faith-based needs are well taken care of. It’s a way for hotels to show their clients that they are ready to welcome more Muslim travellers, both domestic and local to their premises once tourism is allowed again in Malaysia,” he explained. Currently, 44 hotels in Malaysia have been recognised as Muslim-friendly under the MFAR programme and have been widely commended by their respective Muslim guests.

“ITC has also recertified tourist guides as Muslim-friendly under the refresher course for the Muslim-friendly Tourist Guide programme,” he said. The programme sought to equip tour guides with an understanding of Muslim tourists’ faith-based needs and requirements during their travels. 

He concluded that Malaysia was in a prime position to attract Muslim tourists: “Besides Muslim-friendly products, services and facilities, Malaysia offers Muslim visitors the unique experience of exploring a country of multiple races, ethnicities and cultures, as well as beautiful natural assets in a harmonious, safe, and inclusive environment. Tourism industry players have plenty of opportunities to leverage on this and use our existing attractions to appeal to the Muslim tourist market.”

Furthermore, in the Malay language session of HITGS 2021, “Peranan dan Hala Tuju Penggiat Industri Terhadap Pembangunan Pelancongan Mesra-Muslim” (“The Role and Direction of Industry Players Towards the Development of Muslim-friendly Tourism”), panellists highlighted the way forward to strengthen IT and MFTH. 

The panel of speakers for this session were Mr. Uzaidi Udanis, President of Malaysia Inbound Tourism Association (MITA); Mr. Ahmad Faizal Iskandar, Director of Sales at Sunway Hotels Kuala Lumpur; and Mr. Suhaimi Abdul Ghafer, Founder of IslamiCruise. 

Moderator Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohamad Hafiz Hanafiah, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Hotel and Tourism Management at Universiti Teknologi MARA and member of ITC Board of Trustees, concluded that more holistic approaches were required to strengthen the IT and MFTH space. 

He said: “Moving forward the Islamic Tourism and Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality agenda would require enablers such as the formulation of a policy on the administration of Muslim-friendly accommodations, a legal framework  on the management of Muslim-friendly accommodations, and legal protection for the involvement of industry players in the Muslim-friendly travel and hotel sectors. That will enable better participation and greater confidence across the sector in this niche segment of tourism.” 

HITGS is set to return in 2022, the tentative dates being 31 May to 2 June.

END

Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) is an entity under the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Malaysia tasked to develop the Islamic tourism (IT) segment for Malaysia. It advocates for Muslim-friendly tourism (MFT) by offering research and market intelligence, training, industry development consultation, Muslim-friendly tourism and hospitality (MFTH) services standards and certification, and information exchange.

In 2021, ITC was named the recipient of the Strategic Business Alliance Award at The BrandLaureate World Halal Best Brand E-Branding Awards 2021. It is a recognition of ITC’s efforts and endeavours in formulating new strategies to meet the new normal of the business environment to ensure business continuity and sustainability, notwithstanding its role to develop and grow the IT segment in Malaysia.

In addition, Malaysia was named top country in the region in the MFT sector by the State of the Global Islamic Economy (SGIE) Report 2020/21. Malaysia also retained the top-ranked destination in the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2021, a position it has defended since the launch of the Index in 2015.

These recognitions are an added motivation for ITC to continue to strengthen its efforts in being a prime mover and leading institution to ensure Malaysia is at the forefront of MFTH.

For further details, kindly contact:

Islamic Tourism Centre,
Level 13, Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia
No. 2 Tower 1, Jalan P5/6,
Precinct 5, 62200 Putrajaya, Malaysia
Tel: 03-8891 7177 or via email itc@itc.gov.my

Follow ITC on these social platforms:
Facebook: Islamic Tourism Centre
Twitter: @itc_my
Instagram: @itc_my
YouTube: Islamic Tourism Centre

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