Malaysia looks to develop common framework for Muslim-friendly tourism with Indonesia and Thailand

Malaysia is keen to collaborate with the travel industry in Indonesia and Thailand to develop a common set of Muslim-friendly tourism standards in hopes of attracting more Muslim travelers to the destinations.

The initiative, proposed by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC), would enhance cooperation within the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT).

Noor Zari Hamat, MOTAC secretary-general, shared that his ministry, through its agency, Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC), is willing to take the lead.

ITC was set up in 2009 to develop the Islamic tourism industry through research, capacity building, standards and certification, training and branding.

Noor Zari noted that the three countries had the potential to appeal to a greater segment of Muslim tourists – Malaysia and Indonesia ranked among the top five Muslim-friendly tourist destinations in the Global Muslim Travel Index 2021, while Thailand was among the top five non-OIC countries deemed Muslim-friendly.

Speaking at an ITC webinar entitled Understanding Muslim Friendly Tourism, he said: “As a sub-region, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have rich resources in terms of beautiful and attractive natural landscapes, unique culture, history and world-renowned heritage sites, delicious cuisine, warm and wonderful hospitality and exciting events, among many others.

“These are all assets that have potential to draw the interests of not only conventional tourists but also the lucrative Muslim tourist market.”

He called on stakeholders from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to leverage each country’s strengths to establish a compelling and attractive sub-regional tourist destination to capitalise on the pent-up travel demand among Muslim tourists post-pandemic.

Uzaidi Udanis, president of the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association, welcomed MOTAC’s proposal. He said: “Having a common standard assures Muslim travellers from the South-east Asia region and beyond that their faith-based needs will be met when they visit Indonesia, Thailand or Malaysia – three countries that are actively wooing the Muslim traveller.”