Muslim-friendly tourism supply, demand more present than ever

by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / Pic by BLOOMBERG

THE Muslim-friendly tourism (MFT) should be leveraged on as its demand is bubbling, more so after two years of the pandemic have left people wanderlust and looking for a destination convenient to their faith.

Universiti Teknologi MARA hotel and tourism management faculty associate professor Mohd Hafiz Hanafiah said online presence is especially crucial for the market.

“There is also great importance of information dissemination to generate travel demand, while also providing valid and true online information about MFT products and services,” he said during the virtual webinar, Understanding Muslim-Friendly Tourism, yesterday.

He added that based on his research, Muslim travellers’ consumption attitude relies heavily on their level of religiosity, subjective norms and perceived control behaviour.

“The more religious the individual, the more attitude they display towards consuming Halal food, which highlights the importance of Halal certification at non-Muslim destinations.

“When it is difficult to receive information on non-Muslim countries, they rely on other people’s suggestions when deciding to travel to a non-Muslim destination, such as where to stay and what to eat,” he said.

On the other hand, there is also the consideration between Muslim-friendliness and awareness among the locals.

Mohd Hafiz said one such destination is New Zealand, where although it is considered Muslim-friendly, there is insufficient awareness that exists among the community as a Halal tourism destination.

“They are still challenged by multiple perceptions of Halal, and thus are unsure of how to make the changes needed and avoid the risk that Halal tourism could complicate existing products and services,” he said.

Meanwhile, both Japan and Korea have taken conscious decisions of setting up public facilities for Muslims such as prayer rooms, Islamic centres and mosques, while Japan offers Halal Japanese food on the menu as well as collaborating with a mobile application to help Muslim travellers locate and identify Halal products in Japan.

He said what should be the future focus of the MFT market are sustainable, smart and Muslim-friendly tourist destinations, in which young Muslim travellers can use applications to offer insights on their travel destination.

“Smart applications are useful for tourists and are the main drivers of the value-creation process, offer personalised experiences and allow them to plan and enjoy their trips.

“It is advisable that official bodies be the first to invest in the Muslim traveller market segment, because private tourism companies will realise its potential and follow suit by providing Muslim-friendly services,” he said.

Ample Prospects Sdn Bhd executive chairman Datuk Mohd Ilyas Zainol Abidin also touched on the faith-based needs of Muslim travellers, on a need-to-have, good-to-have and nice-to-have basis, which was reported by CrescentRating in 2019.

“Among the need-to-have include Halal food, prayer facilities, water-friendly washrooms as well as no Islamophobia.

“Good-to-have would be social causes, Ramadan services and local Muslim experiences while nice-to-have would be recreational spaces with privacy, and no non-Halal services,” he said.

The report also noted the key touchpoints for Muslim-friendly services, such as marking airports and hotels with the highest priority for the services, followed by event venues, shopping malls and attractions, and highway rest areas and railway stations as the last priority.