Regional cooperation, industry preparedness, and an enabling environment are all important stages in creating a more robust Muslim-Friendly landscape in Malaysia.
These were the key points raised by Malaysian speakers who were invited to speak at the Halal In Travel Global Summit (HITGS) 2021, which took place from July 13 to 15.
HITGS 2021, as the first edition of the event, focused on tackling the primary difficulties in serving the Muslim travel market in the post-COVID-19 era, and featured speakers and guests from all around the world throughout its course.
The Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture Malaysia (MOTAC), Nancy Shukri, was one of several keynote speakers at the conference.
“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',she said.
“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, 160 million Muslims from throughout the world arrived in the United States. Despite the fact that the pandemic slowed growth significantly, CrescentRating predicts that the market will recover to its pre-pandemic levels by 2023. With destinations speeding up COVID-19 vaccination programmes and developing travel regulations and instructions on vaccination passports, the Minister was hopeful for a comeback in tourism.
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.”
Mohmed Razip Haji Hasan, Director-General of ITC, said that the Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality concept supported sustainability and inclusivity, and that industry players needed to be ready 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 said.
He also stated that Malaysia's success in breaking into the market was due to industry participants' thorough awareness of the market and their response to provide relevant products and services to the market.
“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," he said.
“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.
“Besides Muslim-friendly products, services, and facilities, Malaysia provides Muslim travellers the unique experience of visiting a country of many races, ethnicities, and cultures, as well as spectacular natural assets in a peaceful, safe, and inclusive environment,” he concluded. There are numerous potential for tourism sector companies to capitalise on this and use our existing assets to cater to the Muslim tourist market.”
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