by Aida Lim Abdullah,
Managing Director/Founder, Corporate Streets Sdn. Bhd.
The tourism industry is recognised as one of the major sources of economic growth for Malaysia and most of the world; and in this regard, Islamic or Muslim-friendly tourism is seen as an emerging niche market globally. This is due to many Muslim majority countries or markets are now seen as fast-emerging economies with a growing middle class with the thirst for travel.
The term “Islamic tourism” started to emerge in 2000 during the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting, whereby the concept of increasing tourism within Islamic countries will help to generate income and enhance the development of the said countries.
According to a report from Dinar Standard and Crescent Rating (2012), the Muslim tourists’ expenditure growth rate is expected to be at 4.79% per year on average from the year 2012 until 2020. This statistic is higher than the global expected average growth rate of 3.8% during the same period.
Based on an OIC report, on the Muslim Travellers’ demand side, about 75% are for leisure, about 10% for business, 10% for religious activities and maybe another 5% for medical tourism. In Islam, travelling or any actions should be based on necessity and/or other benefits. These make Islamic tourism unique by upholding the Islamic value during the travel activities without abandoning the needs to enjoy and savour the pleasures of travel to foreign places.
What are the basic requirements?
On the supply side, generally we note that there have been no consistent guidelines to cater for the 6 main faith-related needs, which are; (i) Halal food, (ii) Salaah (prayers) facilities, (iii) convenient water usage with clean, friendly toilets, (iv) Ramadan services and facilities, (v) facilities ensuring no Non-Halal Activities and (vi) recreational facilities with privacy provided.
The emergence of Islamic tourism concept in the global tourism business requires the industry to have good understanding on the practices of Sharia compliance as well as catering to cultural needs to Muslim travellers. This is a prerequisite for high value experiences for the Muslim tourists. Shariah compliance is recommended to be expanded to related tourism businesses and facilities, such as places of attractions, airports, visitor information centres and related events. The service and product providers in the tourism ecosystem requires different skill sets and knowledge to assemble related tourism components to fulfil the Muslim tourists’ requirements in order to meet the needs of the Muslim tourist.
More effort and support are needed to understand and market the Islamic Tourism for the Muslim Tourist, especially the essential knowledge and skill sets which will help to promote tourists’ satisfaction and encourage good word-of-mouth sharing and repeat visits.
What Is Malaysia’s Ranking in Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI)?
Malaysia is one of the main destinations for Muslim visitors from around the world. It has been recognised as the No. 1 ranked destination on the GMTI (2015). In 2013, Malaysia was also in the top 10 of the world’s ranking in overall visitor arrivals. Muslim visitor arrivals constitute around 25% of the total arrivals. A key and unique strength of our Malaysian success in Muslim Friendly Tourism (MFT) is the commitment of the Malaysian Tourism Ministry and the industry support for Muslim-friendly tourism.
In early 2009, Malaysia identified that the Muslim market as a priority growth market. This has led to the creation of the Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC). Malaysia’s success story is that there is a government-led commitment to activate the whole industry to make MFT a priority market. Hence, Malaysia is fast becoming the best destination for Muslim visitors in the world with supporting facilities and services aligning to capture this segment.
Amongst the states within Malaysia, Penang has been ranked the third best island in the world and the first in Asia in terms of favourite place to retire in (2021). In a list published by Travel Awaits, the Pearl of the Orient is noted for its multi-culturalism, great culinary scene and connectivity to other countries in the region. As such, leveraging on Malaysia’s commitment in Muslim Tourism and Penang’s natural strength as a well-known tourist’s destination, it has real potential to become a star Muslim Tourism destination.
As such, there is a need for continuous and concerted good effort to promote the country’s tourism industry and encourage the value chain in the tourism sector to capture a bigger market share, be it inbound or outbound travelling. In the wake of the new normal where things need to be operated under new SOPs, Malaysians in general are hopeful that the MFT activities will be revived and strengthened further!