PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA, 8 JULY 2021: Given the high participation rate of women in the tourism workforce and the number of women travellers globally, it is important to make tourism a safer, more inclusive, more meaningful, and more sustainable space for the growing number of women who are in the tourism industry as both practitioners and travellers.
This was the message delivered by YB Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC), in her keynote address at the launch of the first Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) Corporate Forum this morning which led with the theme “Women in Islamic Tourism Economy.” Organised by ITC, the ITC Corporate Forum is a series of knowledge-exchange sessions that leads important discussions and highlights new perspectives pertaining to the Islamic Tourism and Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality space. The ITC Corporate Forum — presenting similarly interesting topics in the coming months — acts as a prelude to one of ITC’s exciting events lined up next year, the Islamic Tourism Outlook Conference 2022.
The Minister noted that women were a key consumer in the travel segment, and tourism businesses would benefit by marketing to them. According to a George Washington University School of Business report, nearly two-thirds of travelers are women. In fact, in 2018 alone, there were an estimated 63 million Muslim women travellers around the world that altogether spent approximately USD80 billion on tourism and travel.
“With females representing a huge and high-spending consumer group when it comes to travel and tourism, it makes sense for the industry to cater to this group,” she surmised.
She further commended the efforts of ITC for playing a key role in developing Malaysia as a safe tourist destination by championing the concept of Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality. She said: “While the concept is driven by the faith-based needs and requirements of Muslim tourists, it also encompasses prioritising the safety, privacy, and comfort of women travellers.”
One of ITC’s key efforts is the Muslim-Friendly Accommodation Recognition (MFAR) programme. The programme recognises hotels and resorts that cater to the Muslim tourist market needs, among which is the provision of gender-separated facilities such as swimming pool and gym. Such a provision benefits women, regardless of religion.
The Minister also emphasised the importance of women in the tourism workforce, saying: “Women are the driving force of tourism as they represent 54% of the industry’s workforce globally. Their involvement provides necessary diversity and innovations that lead to improved corporate governance and financial performance, variety of products and services.”
Having women in the tourism workforce would give insights and perspectives into what women consumers want and need, the Minister said.
She added: “Women in the travel workforce would know how to cater to the female tourist market and would be able to share ideas and create products that cater to female consumers of all levels, be it solo travellers, mothers with young children, female business travellers, women friends travelling together, senior female travellers, and the like.”
She urged tourism industry players to provide greater support to ensure women were enabled to continue their contribution to the tourism economy, and encouraged tourism industry players to address issues of women bosses stereotyping, gender discrimination, underrepresentation, and underpaying of women.
In welcoming participants of the forum, ITC Chairman, Dato’ Dr. Noor Zari Hamat, who is also the Secretary-General of MOTAC, said that as the organiser of the ITC Corporate Forum and a Centre of Excellence dedicated to growing the body of knowledge in the areas of Islamic Tourism and MFTH, “ITC is keen to engage in discussions, share knowledge, and undertake research and strategic studies focusing not just on women in Islamic Tourism but also on the whole spectrum – from hospitality to services and the businesses within the Islamic Tourism economy.”
He added that with the Muslim tourist market showing growth pre-COVID-19 and the segment’s high preference for destinations that meet their specific faith-based needs, dietary requirements, and rituals, there are “opportunities for gender diversity to bring new ideas and explore new opportunities.”
Director-General of ITC, Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip Hasan said that the WITE event was held to “facilitate the inclusion of women at every opportunity, whether in life, social circle, business, economy, or government space; and for those in the tourism industry to engage with more of them as employees, managers, and customers.”
He shared that Malaysia had been declared the No. 1 destination for Muslim women travellers in the inaugural Muslim Women in Travel Report released in October 2019 by Crescentrating and MasterCard.
“To uphold Malaysia’s position as the top destination for Muslim travellers, we believe that women in the tourism workforce and women travellers play a key role and must be given special attention,” he said.
He added, “The Islamic Tourism economy provides many opportunities for women to participate in tourism — both professionally as an industry practitioner as well as personally as a traveller.”
Indeed, the ITC Corporate Forum today showcased that women’s achievements were admirable and exemplary. Within the Islamic Tourism landscape and areas such as sports, sustainable tourism, luxury tourism, tour guiding, workplace safety, and more, the speakers’ experiences proved that women’s involvement was critical towards developing the Islamic Tourism concept and advancing the role and standing of women in tourism, the economy, and society as a whole.
As part of its advocacy work to strengthen the Islamic Tourism and MFTH concept among tourism industry players, ITC provides training and capacity building services, conducts strategic research, organises information exchange through seminars, encourages product development, and establishes standards and certifications.
Its support for women in tourism has seen ITC certify 31 female Muslim Friendly Tour Guides (MFTG) in Malaysia, a number which represents half of the total number of MFTGs under ITC. In addition, almost half of the 198 participants it trained under the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme (MTCP) since 2009 were women.
“We advocate for Muslim-friendly tourism and hospitality products and services, which includes the care and privacy for female tourists. Through our Muslim-Friendly Accommodation Recognition programme, we encourage hoteliers to provide gender-separated facilities, for instance. Meanwhile, our Muslim-Friendly Tour Guide training also emphasises the respectful and proper etiquette of interacting with Muslim women,” he shared.
The ITC Corporate Forum series is organised as a prelude event leading up to the Islamic Tourism Outlook Conference 2022 aimed at bringing together the industry players and stakeholders to network, discuss and share experiences and best practices for the development of Islamic Tourism and Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality segment.