Tourism driven by female Muslim travellers, workers

Some 29% female Muslims travelled in all-female groups, 28% travelled alone and 22% in mixed-gender groups 

By AZALEA AZUAR / Pic TMR

YOUNG female Muslim travellers have been the drivers in the tourism industry. 

Pear Anderson founding partner Hannah Pearson quoted a MasterCard Credit Rating Study in 2018 that said 63 million female Muslim travellers, between the ages of 18 and 40 years, spent a total of US$80 billion (RM334.5 billion). 

“Female Muslim travellers are highly influential when it comes to travel decisions,” she said at the launch of the first Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) Corporate Forum yesterday. 

HalalTrip Strategic Partnerships and Projects lead Raudha Zaini said although most Muslim women (71%) travelled with their families, she expected the trend to change once the pandemic is under control and borders are open again for tourism. 

“We might see less family travel due to health and safety concerns for young children so, there would be more solo travellers being the biggest contributor to the tourism industry,” she said. 

Raudha added that 29% female Muslims travelled in all female groups, 28% travelled alone and 22% in mixed gender groups. 

The ITC Corporate Forum is a series of knowledge-exchange sessions which leads important discussions and highlights new perspectives pertaining to the Islamic Tourism and Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality space. 

It also acts as a prelude to the Islamic Tourism Outlook Conference 2022. 

ITC chairman and Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (Motac) secretary-general Datuk Dr Noor Zari Hamat said the Muslim tourism market grew pre-Covid and the segment’s high preference for destinations include those that meet their specific faith-based needs, dietary requirements and rituals. 

“ITC is keen to engage in discussions, share knowledge and undertake research and strategic studies focusing not just on women in Islamic Tourism but also on the whole spectrum — from hospitality to services and the businesses within the Islamic tourism economy,” he said. 

Apart from female travellers, ITC DG Datuk Dr Mohamed Razip Hasan said that the event also included female tourism workers. 

“To uphold Malaysia’s position as the top destination for Muslim travellers, we believe that women in the tourism workforce and women travellers play a key role and must be given special attention. 

“The Islamic Tourism economy provides many opportunities for women to participate in tourism — both professionally as an industry practitioner and personally as a traveller,” he said. 

Malaysia was rated as the No 1 destination for Muslim women travellers in the inaugural Muslim Women in Travel Report released in October 2019 by Crescentrating and MasterCard. 

ITC also provides training and capacity building services, conducts strategic research, organises information exchange through seminars, encourages product development, and establishes standards and certifications as part of its efforts to strengthen Islamic Tourism among tourism industry players. 

So far, it has certified 31 female Muslim Friendly Tour Guides (MFTG) in Malaysia and almost half of the 198 participants it trained under the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme since 2009 were women. 

“We advocate for Muslim- friendly tourism and hospitality products and services, which include the care and privacy for female tourists. 

“Through our Muslim-Friendly Accommodation Recognition programme, we encourage hoteliers to provide gender-separated facilities, for instance while our MFTG training also emphasises the respectful and proper etiquette of interacting with Muslim women,” Mohamed Razip added. 

Also present at the forum was Motac Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri (picture), who encouraged making tourism safer, inclusive, meaningful and sustainable for both female travellers and tourism workers. 

“While the concept is driven by the faith-based needs and requirements of Muslim tourists, it also encompasses prioritising the safety, privacy and comfort of all women travellers,” she said. 

Another of ITC’s programmes is the Muslim-Friendly Accommodation Recognition programme which recognises hotels and resorts that cater to the Muslim tourist market. 

An example is accommodations with gender-separated facilities such as swimming pool and gym which benefits all women regardless of religion. 

“Meanwhile, in terms of female tourism workers, they are the driving force of the industry as they represent 54% of the workforce globally. 

“Their involvement provides necessary diversity and innovations that lead to improved corporate governance and financial performance, and a variety of products and services,” Nancy added. 

She also highlighted that to understand female travellers, it is important to have women in the tourism workforce to give insights and perspectives. 

“They would know how to cater to the female tourist market and would be able to share ideas and create products that cater to female consumers of all levels, be it solo travellers, mothers with young children, female business travellers, senior female travellers, and so on,” she said. 

Nancy urged tourism industry players to provide greater support to ensure women are enable to continue their contribution to the tourism economy, and encouraged tourism industry players to address issues of gender discrimination, underrepresentation, and under-paying of women. 

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