PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA, 9 JULY 2021: Malaysia’s heritage attractions are important assets with Islamic Tourism (IT) and cultural values and should be developed with care to ensure their preservation and contribution towards sustainable tourism.
This was the message by Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) Director-General, Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip Haji Hasan in acknowledging the 13th year celebration of George Town and Melaka’s joint inscription as UNESCO World Heritage Cities today.
He congratulated the states of Melaka and Penang on its growing achievements in the field of cultural heritage, which is amongst the important elements in the IT and Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality (MFTH) models.
Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip opined that the preservation of national cultural heritage — both tangible and intangible — are among the necessary steps to ensure their abstract and concrete values, meanings, and attributes are here to stay for many generations to come.
“When tourists flock to a particular destination, they visit the attractions to appreciate its deep-rooted values as well, in addition to its visual characteristics. I believe that is a good angle for us to consider how to tap on these untold stories of our attractions. When we work to preserve and dive deeper into these stories, we also strive towards creating more opportunities to unleash the potential of our attractions at the same time.”
“There are many tourist attractions, of all category types, to be explored in Melaka and Penang – nature, historical, gastronomical, shopping, family, and others. Both cities have common Peranakan culture, mouth-watering street-food choices, unique architecture, and history, and these are appealing to a wide range of tourists. With the vaccination programmes underway globally, borders will reopen soon and tourists, including Muslim tourists, will be pining to travel again to these places.”
He pointed out that pre-COVID-19, one of the biggest tourist markets was the Muslim tourist segment with 200.3 million Muslim travellers contributing USD194 billion in travel spend in 2019.
One of the advantages of this market is that it is so geographically dispersed. While tthere is a predominantly Muslim population in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, one must not forget that there are Muslims in other parts of the world as well, he said.
“There are Muslims in China, Europe, Central Asia and Southeast Asia. In fact, there are 230 million Muslims in ASEAN member states alone, demonstrating the Muslim tourist market potential.”
“After being in lockdown for months, the Muslim tourist market is just eager to travel again, and the Malaysian industry players are in prime position to take advantage of that development. Malaysia has a diversity of attractions which can be developed and packaged for the Muslim tourist market. But they have to act now to roll out the welcome mat, not later when the tourists have stepped off the plane.”
Tourism industry players, he says, need to be aware of the unique faith-based needs of the Muslim tourist market to cater to them adequately, foremost among which are the availability of Halal food and prayer facilities. Other “nice to have” tourism services include water in the bathrooms for ablution and cleansing, Ramadan services, family-friendly activities, and recreational facilities/services that are gender-separated for the privacy of Muslim women travellers.
“This is where the role of ITC comes in to assist by providing services ranging from research and training, and capacity building, to standards, certification and industry development such that industry players understand the travel requirements of Muslim tourists and deliver accordingly. This ensures that Malaysia remains a strong and sustainable IT and MFTH destination preferred by global Muslim travellers,” he further added.
“Thus, I call upon our tourism partners and stakeholders to consider tapping into the Muslim travel market for all the reasons above. Malaysia has been named as the top destination for this market in the past. Thus, we have a good and solid foundation to build from. With the existing resources we have, the opportunities are out there for the taking,” Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip said.