HARI KEBANGSAAN & HARI MALAYSIA SPECIAL BY ISLAMIC TOURISM CENTRE: CARVING A FUTURE IN ISLAMIC TOURISM FOUNDED ON THE HISTORY, CULTURE & HERITAGE OF MALAYSIA

The next few weeks are indeed special to all Malaysians as it will mark two important events in national history -- National Day and Malaysia Day

Malaysia’s National Day is celebrated on 31 August and commemorates the day the Federation of Malaya, more commonly known as Malaya, achieved independence from the British, in 1957

Meanwhile, Malaysia Day commemorates the events of 16 September 1963, when the Malaysia we know today was established. Malaysia was formed via the federation of the existing states of Malaya with the Crown Colonies of North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore, the latter three becoming the Malaysian states of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore, respectively, with Singapore then becoming independent on 9 August 1965

Today, the sacrifices of our forefathers and us, Malaysians, in preserving, protecting and defending our country’s sovereignty, have led to the peace and prosperity that we the rakyat enjoy today

Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) Director-General, Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip Haji Hasan, said: “It is apt that this year’s theme for the celebration is “Malaysia Prihatin” (Malaysia Cares), symbolising the concern and compassion that we need to show each other
during this challenging COVID-19 pandemic. It is also to encourage and inspire each
other to remain strong and resilient.”

“Insha Allah, as the vaccination rollout gains momentum, we are seeing a ray of hope for economic recovery and reopening of tourism worldwide. Taking the spirit of the National Day and Malaysia Day to heart, let us all come together to win this battle so we can be free to reconnect with our loved ones again.”

Noting the importance of the two upcoming national holidays, he said: “Every year, around this time, Malaysians are presented with an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of these two special occasions -- the National Day and Malaysia Day. It is a unique challenge in terms of uniting a multi-racial and multi-cultural population into the Malaysia that we know today. However, that makes it more meaningful to be Malaysian and to be part of such rich culture and heritage.”

He further opined that Malaysia’s diversity is a strong pulling factor for tourists worldwide. “Our unique tapestry of population, made up of Malays, Indians, Chinese, and numerous ethnic communities, is a special appeal. People from all over the world are curious to see how Malaysians live and socialise together, and celebrate occasions together, when we are so different and diverse.”

He noted, the fact that Malaysia is a Muslim country made up of people of different faiths is a key factor in positioning Malaysia as an Islamic Tourism destination. “Being a Muslim country of such depth and breadth of unique experiences, Malaysia stands out in the eyes of the world. We are able to showcase our own distinctive Islamic Tourism appeal, one that is based on a multiracial population where our various cultures, heritage and values may be different but they intermingle and manifest themselves beautifully in our architecture, handicrafts, traditional costumes, cuisines, language, and
more.”

Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip sees the potential of Malaysia growing in popularity and standing as an Islamic Tourism destination and says tourism industry players should leverage Malaysia’s unique appeal to promote the country as an Islamic Tourism destination. “Malaysia is for both Muslim and non-Muslim tourists who love to explore Malaysia’s history and how Islam came to our shores, as well as to experience how Muslims and non-Muslims live in modern, multicultural Malaysia, with our architectural aesthetic, education system, our health facilities, the way we conduct business, and as such.”

“As an exemplary Muslim nation, we will naturally attract many Muslim tourists to our shores as well and this is where it’s important to be mindful of their faith-based needs, and build their trust in our tourism and hospitality service quality, especially since both Muslims and non-Muslims participate in the tourism economy.”

He continued: “This is where Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality (MFTH) that ITC has been advocating plays an important role to enhance the development and expansion of Islamic Tourism and to attract more Muslim tourists. MFTH is a branding and marketing approach that provides assurance to Muslim consumers that their faith-based needs are not compromised when they patronise a place of tourism business.”

ITC has been playing a role in developing Malaysia as a Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality destination since its establishment in 2009. Among its initiatives are the Muslim-Friendly Accommodation Recognition (MFAR) programme as well as training tourist guides under the Muslim-Friendly Tour Guide (MFTG) programme. Besides that, ITC has organised several webinars during the pandemic, seizing this rare opportunity - to create awareness among tourism industry players on the value of the Muslim tourist market, as well as how businesses could successfully adapt to meet the needs of this niche but lucrative tourist market especially in anticipation of the pent-up demand for post-pandemic travel.

For its efforts in growing the MFTH concept through collaborations and branding, ITC was awarded The BrandLaureate “Strategic Business Alliance Award” from The World Brands Foundation on 3 May 2021. Malaysia’s standing as a Muslim-friendly tourist destination also remains intact. At the
recent Halal in Travel Global Summit 2021, MasterCard and CrescentRating launched the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2021 in which Malaysia took top spot as the No. 1 Muslim-Friendly Tourist Destination among 140 countries surveyed, a position it has
defended since 2015.

“This National Day and Malaysia Day is a good time for us to reflect on our history, heritage and culture and how it has led us to where we are today, as well as where it can take us in the future with regards to positioning Malaysia as the preferred Islamic Tourism destination. With a strong Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality branding, I believe Malaysia has the biggest potential and opportunity to reap the benefits in Islamic Tourism,” Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip said.

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