Malaysia has to innovate to capture Islamic travel market

TO CAPTURE a larger slice of the Muslim travel market, Malaysia needs to innovate more, tour operators were told at the fifth International Conference on Muslim Tourism, Hajj and Umrah 2011 in Kuala Lumpur.

“There much potential in Islamic tourism in Malaysia due to contributing factors, such asour liberal policies comfort in food, beverages, personal needs and facilities,” Zainuddin Abdul Wahab, director-general of the Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC), which is organising the second International Islamic Tourism Conference and Travel Mart in Kuala Lumpur from Oct 13 to 16.

“Islamic tourism has long been defined as merely Umrah and Hajj tours, when there are many avenues to expand on, such as halal food trails, historical and cultural journeys and modern Muslim cities,” Wahab added.

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) past president and group president of the Mitra group, Tunku Iskandar Abdullah, said Malaysia is “barely scratching the surface”.

“The Muslim market is far larger than what we think. We should not just focus on the Arabian and Middle East, but also the huge North Africa and China market,” he said.

Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tengku Abdullah, managing director of Two One Holidays Malaysia, added that Malaysia needs to upgrade its existing tourism products and introduce new attractions.

“Many Middle Easterners vacation with their families. They seldom travel alone. As far as family entertainment goes, we are already losing out to Singapore’s Sentosa Island, which has been aggressively introducing interesting products,” he said.

MATTA president Dato Mohd Khalid Harunpointed out Malaysian operators do not have the license to sell to overseas agents. “That is Tourism Malaysia’s job,” he said.

By Ellen Chen

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