Is 'Islamic Tourism' the way to go?

Graphics by BT/Ayi Hermala

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

BRUNEI'S bilateral talks with Malaysia during the World Tourism Conference will see the neighbouring country providing assistance in developing Brunei's tourism industry particularly in Islamic tourism, said Malaysia's Minister of Tourism, Dato' Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen.

"We share common borders, so we are now into the final stages of developing our religious tourism package, meaning especially during Ramadhan, we receive many tourists from the Middle East so we will then be able to provide an additional route for them when they visit Malaysia, they can definitely visit Brunei, visit some of the most beautiful mosques and museums," said Ng of the focus for bilateral talks between herself and Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar, Minister of Industry and Primary Resources during the conference in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, earlier this month.

Ng also said during a press conference that because of the commonality, the two countries would be having to look at the differences in their market in order to complement each other's programmes.

Brunei delegates will be attending the International Islamic Tourism Conference and Travel Mart in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia later this month, to speak on the potential of Islamic tourism in the global travel industry.

Sheikh Jamaluddin, Director of the Brunei Tourism Board, said that he would be promoting Brunei as an example of how Islamic culture has grown into a tourism sector with high yield potential. "I intend to talk about the need to work together among the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) member countries in promoting Joint Islamic Tourism, that can bring many benefits to our religion collectively."

OIC, he added, can offer excellent products in terms of environment, such as pristine rainforest, crystal clear corals, and unique monuments and mosques, but what is needed now for the organisation is to have "greater marketing cooperation amongst the member countries, that can promote OIC to the world in a better tourism light".

Sheikh Jamaluddin also said that in terms of Brunei its tourism industry is itself 'Halal', not including the numerous restaurants and cultural aspects that would "make Muslim visitors feel comfortable and have 'tanpa was was' ('without a doubt') holiday from a religious point of view, while the country is liberal and tolerant enough to make non-Muslims feel at ease while visiting".

They would be targeting visitors from the neighbouring Southeast Asian regions by offering them holiday packages that include viewings of unique Muslim artifacts, he said. He also revealed that Brunei Tourism is currently in the phase of developing brochures to advertise these tourism packages and has also appointed an unnamed local travel agent to oversee its development and implement the itineraries.

With a combination of stays in both Malaysia and Brunei, Sheikh Jamaluddin said that hopefully the tour packages would take off. If results are positive, the board would be extending and combining this campaign with other countries with a strong Islamic and Malay culture, such as Aceh in Indonesia and the niche markets of Vietnam's Champa area and Mindanao in the Philippines.

"These packages we believe, are not just focused on Muslims, but (is for) everyone. There are many non-Muslims who are interested to learn and appreciate the past histories of Islamic civilisations."

The Brunei Times


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