Despite the word ‘Islamic’ being used in this term, it is important to note that Islamic tourism is not exclusive to Muslims. Islamic tourism only means that Islamic elements are added into the mix – halal food, prayer facilities, Islamic places of interest and attractions – but due to its universal nature, Islamic tourism can also be enjoyed by non-Muslims.
Malaysia was named as one of the world’s favourite destinations among Muslim travellers, alongside Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in the latest survey conducted by DinarStandard, a leading US-based survey institute for the Muslim travel market. Malaysia was also rated the world’s top Muslim-friendly destination for three consecutive years with bigger Muslim countries, namely Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey, trailing behind in another survey released by CrescentRating, a Singapore-based Muslim travel consultancy. Among the 50 countries listed in this study, Malaysia came out on top with a score of 8.3 over 10.
Malaysia has an extensive and comprehensive range of facilities for Muslims which are easily available including prayer facilities, halal food and Muslim-friendly accommodation. Mosques and mushollas can easily be found in every district, as well as ample prayer rooms at almost every public place. Most eateries serve JAKIM-certified halal food and many accommodation provide Qibla direction and prayer mats in their guest rooms. Malaysia also offers Islamic tour packages.
Islamic Tourism Centre is a government agency established to develop and enhance the Islamic tourism sector in Malaysia. Aside from assisting the Ministry of Tourism, Malaysia in undertaking strategic tourism research and market intelligence, the centre also provides training and capacity-building services in relation to Islamic tourism as well as an objective and impartial understanding of tourism issues at national, regional and international levels.
Islamic Tourism Centre’s initiatives as a government agency responsible for the development of the country’s Islamic tourism industry include building the industry’s capacity at grass-roots level through courses, workshops and seminars across the country, working with major industry players – including government officials and policy makers – to enhance Malaysia’s Islamic travel and tourism industry, and participating in travel and trade events at national and international levels each year as main organiser, co-organiser, main supporter or exhibitor. ITC is also constantly invited to speak at international events, where the centre shares with the world its knowledge and experience to better improve the Islamic tourism sector.
Islamic tourism represents the largest and most lucrative untapped niche market in global tourism – the Muslim travellers. With a market potential of more than 50 Muslim countries and no less than 1.6 billion Muslims, tremendous opportunities await those who are willing to meet the demands for Muslim-friendly tourism products and services. Offering tourism products and services that are Shariah-compliant opens them up to this increasingly affluent tourist market who would otherwise not spend their money on them, thus enabling the products and services to be enjoyed by everyone, i.e. both non-Muslims and Muslims.
To-date, ITC has published two booklets of Islamic tourism packages – Malaysia: The Islamic Tourism Experience and Brunei and Malaysia: The Islamic Tour Experience – to cater to the needs of Muslim visitors.