Malaysia’s recent recognition as the ‘Best Muslim-Friendly Destination’ and ‘Best Muslim-Women-Friendly Destination’ is seen as a good way of promoting the country to the world, as well as attracting more tourists to travel here.
Owner of a travel agency, Muslimtravelbug Sdn Bhd, Mohd Saddam Irrban Shamsuddi, said that the local tourism industry should therefore opt to create more Muslim-related products, which will attract more Muslim tourists to travel to Malaysia.
He said his agency is preparing to focus more on inbound travelling as its main source of income, and to be able to cater to the tourism demand in the industry, which directly contributes to the national economy.
“We focus on Muslim tourism. In the local tourism industry, different companies focus on different tourist markets, such as Europeans, Arabs and Indonesian tourists. However, my agency specifically focuses on Muslim tourists,” he said.
On June 1, Malaysia was named the ‘Best Muslim-Friendly Destination’ by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the ‘Best Muslim-Women-Friendly Destination’ by CrescentRating and Mastercard, at the Halal in Travel Awards held in Singapore.
Mohd Saddam added that more improvements can be made to the industry, such as upgrading important facilities at airports, as well as connecting trains and immigration management systems, to ease tourists’ travelling experience.
He also said that travel agencies should promote Malaysia’s natural beauty, especially those with pristine beaches which are safe for water activities, such as in Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu and Langkawi.
Bumiputera Tourism Operators Association of Malaysia (Bumitra Malaysia) president, Harun KC Ahmmu, said that the industry is grateful for the recognition as the market for Muslim-friendly travel grows every year, Islamic countries will increasingly become focal destinations for tourists from all over the world.
“We should opt to offer completely halal food so that Muslim tourists can come here without any worry when eating at our restaurants. Thus far, in this aspect, we manage it quite well.
“The level of public friendliness when dealing with tourists is also crucial, and they should learn to at least greet tourists with simple greetings such as ‘Good morning’ and ‘Where are you from?’. These welcoming gestures from members of the public are crucial,” he said, adding that such kind and positive gestures will give tourists a sense of belonging, and make them feel more welcomed when travelling in Malaysia.
Harun said the government should also give more attention to the safety level of the country’s tourism industry, to ensure that tourists feel safe while they are here.
“With all the right proactive approaches implemented, Malaysia will be recognised as a safe and friendly tourist destination,” he said.
Malaysia Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) president Uzaidi Udanis said in order to uphold the titles of recognition, especially considering the strong competition from neighbouring countries, more unique Islamic-based activities should be held throughout the year.
“We provided the best, most unique experiences for Muslim travellers, such as the mass breaking of the fast event at the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Merdeka Square, held earlier this year. Secondly, the Aidilfitri open houses, offering various scrumptious local dishes, should be held more, to differentiate us from other countries.
“We also have the Aidiladha celebration, where we have tourists from Singapore and other countries who wants to see how we celebrate it, with the ‘ibadah korban’ (sacrificial rites) and such. They can also participate in our festivities and learn our culture,” he said.
An avid local traveller, Nur Iffah Syakilah Ahmad, 27, said that while still being cautious of her safety, she can still travel around the country in peace, as Malaysia is aptly named the best Muslim-Women-friendly destination.
“We see Islamophobia in countries in the West, which make Muslims, especially Muslim women, afraid to travel there. However, in Malaysia, I can proudly wear my hijab and eat at any restaurant as long as I know it is halal. It is not a huge concern in Malaysia,” she said.