The “IMT-GT Webinar: Understanding Muslim-friendly Tourism” event organised by Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) on 19 August 2021 drove home the potential economic value of the Muslim tourist market and presented the government, business, and industry perspectives to drive Islamic Tourism in the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle.
As the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture Malaysia (MOTAC), Datuk Wira Dr. Noor Zari bin Hamat said in his opening remarks: “Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand have rich resources in terms of beautiful natural landscapes, unique culture, and many others. These are all assets that have the potential to attract the interest of the Muslim tourist market. Therefore, it would be beneficial to work together to strengthen the Islamic Tourism industry.”
Datuk Wira Dr. Noo Zari, who is also the Chairman of ITC, said: “Malaysia, through the Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC), is ready to support your aspirations to do so. ITC’s range of webinars, trainings, research, industry consultation, and development of standards and certification, will help promote growth through greater regional economic integration and innovation in the Islamic Tourism market.”
Prof. Dr. Mohd Hafiz Mohd Hanafiah, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Hotel & Tourism Management of MARA University of Technology, shared that a destination can develop and grow by paying close attention to the demand for its tourism activities and products. He believed that tourism opportunities abound through a good mix of attractions available in particular destinations. For a country to succeed as a Muslim-Friendly tourist destination, it is critical to deliver a quality tourism product demanded by Muslim travelers.
Taking Malaysia as an example, he explained: “To support this demand, Malaysia offers Muslim-Friendly hotels, availability of Halal food, provision of prayer facilities, family-friendly entertainment, safety, security, and many more. In fact, ITC has established the Muslim-Friendly Accommodation Recognition (MFAR) programme for hotels. By awarding the aforementioned recognition to hotels and accommodations, Muslim travelers would be able to identify establishments that provide Muslim-Friendly hospitality and services, boosting their stay and experience in Malaysia.”
He also emphasised the importance of utilising modern technology. Social media and online visibility are important because during the COVID-19 outbreak, tourists may be making future travel plans and referring to social media and available online sources for information. He shared that it was the right time for destinations to make tourism information available online by utilising social media platforms. This would help to make destinations visible and push out more information related to Islamic Tourism.
Datuk Mohd Ilyas Zainol Abidin, Executive Chairman, Ample Prospects Sdn Bhd, also highlighted the importance of digital marketing and social media for targeting the Muslim travelers. He believed travellers depend on and are influenced by digital marketing in making their travel choices. Destinations with a social media presence would benefit from the engagement with their audiences.
He also emphasised that applying the Muslim-friendly concept to tourism businesses did not require huge financial investments or adjustments. “It is very simple. Almost everything is available already on your premises, and it is only a matter of tweaking things a little bit according to the Islamic lifestyle.”
While Muslim travelers have a requirement for Halal food, he noted that non-Muslims were also showing a preference for Halal-manufactured products. “With the current COVID-19 outbreak, Halal food will gain more popularity due to hygiene reasons because Halal food is known to never compromise with anything as far as hygiene is concerned. In fact, it can be consumed by both Muslim and Non-Muslim.”
Meanwhile, Mdm. Fakheezah Borhan, Senior Assistant Director, Standardisation Division, Department of Standards Malaysia, shared with the audience the importance of standard development in strengthening Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality products and services. She explained about the Malaysia Standard 2610 for Muslim-Friendly Hospitality services, which is Malaysia’s first standard intended for the tourism industry that caters to Muslim travellers.
MS 2610 provides guidelines and requirements for managing tourism, facilities, products, and services for Muslim travelers in accommodation premises, tour packages, and tourist guides. All requirements in the standards are generated and are intended to be applicable to all organisations and individuals managing Muslim-friendly tourism products and services.
She added: “ITC is one of the members of the committee that is responsible for developing MS 2610 in order to ensure that all the requirements are implementable. As an example, the specific requirement for tourist guides is that they need to be Muslim-friendly in their services in order to meet the standards.”
Echoing this sentiment, Mr. Ahmad Faizal Iskandar, Director of Sales at Sunway City Kuala Lumpur Hotels, also said that certification and acknowledgement are very important for any travel operator wanting to capture the Muslim tourist market.
Sunway Hotels & Resorts group is among the hotels in Malaysia to receive the Muslim-friendly Accomodation Recognition (MFAR) programme from ITC. “This recognition has brought great value to us by enhancing the Sunway City destination as a preferred choice for Muslim travelers from all over the world who are looking for Muslim-friendly hotels and holiday destinations,” he said.
Overall, the webinar showcased Malaysia’s commitment to the development and promotion of Islamic Tourism by introducing the Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality concept. ITC played a role in providing the knowledge and skills to industry partners as well as sharing the opportunities available in the Muslim tourist market. The cooperative efforts of the three nations to strengthen Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality offerings within the region were also highlighted.
Malaysia’s success as the top destination in the Muslim travel market, as reported in the MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2021 served as a reference for other destinations wanting to tap into the Muslim tourist market.
Watch the IMT-GT Webinar: Understanding Muslim-friendly Tourism, organised by ITC on 19 August 2021 here: IMT-GT Webinar: Understanding Muslim-friendly Tourism & Hospitality.
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