@ Halal | January-February . 2022
Muslim-friendly tourism for the future WITC brings exciting discussions on Islamic Tourism beyond the pandemic
BY FATIHAH MANAF
THE TOURISM sector is experiencing a significant recovery with people being allowed to travel again . With an approximately 1.8 billion Muslim population today , Islamic Tourism is expected to be one of the key segments to spur the industry after the pandemic .
From 15 to 17 November 2021 , Islamic Tourism Centre ( ITC ) organised the 2nd World Islamic Tourism Conference ( WITC ) with the theme “ Islamic Tourism New Norms and Revitalisation ” in a hybrid format . The event was held physically at World Trade Centre , Kuala Lumpur , and virtually on Zoom and ITC ’ s Facebook Page .
The conference aimed to explore the challenges and opportunities related to the development , management and promotion of Muslim-friendly tourism in a time of postpandemic recovery .
ITC Chairman Datuk Wira Dr Noor Zari Hamat kickstarted the conference by addressing and welcoming both online and offline participants to the event .
In her keynote address at the conference , Tourism , Arts and Culture Minister Dato Sri Nancy Shukri stated that Islamic Tourism and the concept of Muslim-friendly Tourism and Hospitality ( MFTH ) were powerful brandings . She said they were a great marketing tool to attract the Muslim market in the new tourism environment , where health and safety were top priorities .
Emphasising innovation , knowledge and collaboration , she then said : “ The vastness of Islamic Tourism and its interconnectedness to other areas of the socioeconomic unlocks so many opportunities for everyone .
“ I can say that Islamic Tourism is a yetuntapped area that holds great promise and potential in advancing the Islamic Economy as a whole . Understanding the Muslim tourist market and their needs , and flowing from that , making the necessary preparations to serve them , paves the way for a new revenue stream or income generation from a potentially lucrative market .”
The first day of the event consisted of three exciting sessions – Ambassadors & Leaders Forum , Emerging Islamic Tourism Destinations and Domestic Tourism Forum - featuring relevant stakeholders within the tourism industry to share their insights on Islamic Tourism .
The first session featured Ravshan Usmanov , Ambassador of the Republic of Uzbekistan , Ardasher Saeedjaafar Qodiri , Ambassador of Tajikistan , Shazlin Ahmad , Country Manager in Southeast Asia for Saudi Tourism Authority and Dr Sapta Nirwandar , Chairman of Indonesia Halal Lifestyle . Aida Lim Abdul-
Ambassadors and Leaders Forum .
MOTAC Minister Dato Sri Nancy Shukri delivers her keynote address .
ITC Chairman Datuk Wira Dr Noor Zari Hamat delivers his welcoming speech .
lah , Chief Executive Officer of Penang Halal International , moderated the Ambassadors & Leaders Forum .
The panels shared available attractions in their respective countries and how they aimed to expand tourism in those places . Shazlin , representing Saudi Arabia , said that although the country was often associated with Muslims , it now wanted to tackle Muslim and non-Muslim tourists and go beyond hajj and umrah packages .
Domestic Tourism Forum
Moderated by Hannah Pearson , the Managing Director of Pear Anderson , the panel discussion on the first day of WITC talked about ‘ Domestic
Tourism Revival for Muslim Market ’. It discussed the challenges and opportunities in the domestic tourism market .
Yap Lip Seng , Chief Executive Officer of the Malaysian Association of Hotels , said the international market needed to return . He said hotels had carried out many initiatives to sustain their employees by depending on the domestic market , but it was still insufficient . For example , some hotels came up with a ‘ work at hotel ’ package , but the plan was unsustainable .
Yap revealed many hotels dropped prices and made the packages affordable when the government reopened inter-State borders last year .
“ This time around , we realised that was not the right thing to do because of the pent-up demand . So , it ’ s not about pricing anymore . It ’ s about what the travellers want and can give them more value .
“ With more tourists driving , there comes another problem , parking space . Not all hotels have sufficient parking for all rooms . It was a wake-up call for hoteliers but a good lesson learnt . Now stakeholders know better what to do with the domestic tourists ,” said Yap .
He then shared some opportunities regarding the domestic tourism market , which were : 1 , Catering to domestic tourists who used to travel overseas ( more spending power ) 2 . Discovering previously unseen destinations 3 . Tapping into Muslim domestic market
Touching on Islamic Tourism , Yap said : “ There ’ s a need and demand , but to have that demand coming into our properties , we must first create awareness . That ’ s where ITC comes in and does the awareness campaign on the availability of such accommodation .”
Datuk Mohd Asyaharim Abdul Latif , Chief Executive Officer of Restu Foundation , said the pandemic urged people to emphasise humanities . It served as a valuable experience , but