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Chinese Muslim Tourists Make Malaysia Their Go-to Holiday Destination

According to The Islamic Tourism Centre of Malaysia Director General Nizran Noordin, the country is experiencing a marked increase in Chinese Muslim tourists with 26,534 arrivals last year and is anticipating 40,172 by end of Q1 2024.

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According to The Islamic Tourism Centre of Malaysia Director General Nizran Noordin, the country is experiencing a marked increase in Chinese Muslim tourists with 26,534 arrivals last year and is anticipating 40,172 by end of Q1 2024.

Byline Khoo Gek San

Malaysia’s travel industry is targeting Chinese Muslim tourists as the country gears up for Visit Malaysia Year 2026 with the target of becoming an umrah destination in the region.

According to The Islamic Tourism Centre of Malaysia Director General Nizran Noordin, efforts by the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry such as promotional activities, visa easing and enhanced air connectivity specifically tailored to the Chinese market are credited with invigorating tourism flow.

“The widespread availability of halal food, mosques and surau in public spaces, Malaysia presents itself as an incredibly inclusive and welcoming destination for Muslim travellers,” says Noordin.

Noordin says that ITC assists the ministry through strategic tourism research and market intelligence as well as provide training and capacity-building services in relation to Islamic tourism.

“The ITC’s Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality Assurance and Recognition (MFAR) programme plays a pivotal role in cementing Malaysia’s position as a preferred Muslim tourist destination,” says Noordin.

According to Noordin, the programme has specific guidelines to help tourism industry players position themselves strategically in the Muslim tourism market to help provide travellers with services that align with Islamic practices.

The MFAR guidelines are currently available for two schemes – tourist accommodation premises and travel operating businesses.

“ITC will soon develop guidelines for eight others, namely spa and wellness centres, medical facilities, transportation hubs, tourism products, shopping malls, theme and entertainment parks, Rest and Relax areas and trade and convention centres,” says Noordin.

He also added that ITC aims to enlist more industry players in the MFAR programme to enhance the tourism ecosystem and called for input from government bodies and travel agencies to meet specific market needs.

“Tourists often allocate a big portion of their budget for shopping, creating ample opportunities for businesses to meet the demand of Muslim travellers for consumer goods. These include Muslimah fashion and active wear, cosmetics, personal care products and halal pharmaceuticals,” says Noordin.

Muslim travellers, particularly the younger demographic, also have a keen interest in local culture.

“This presents an opportunity for tourism players to develop tailored itineraries that emphasise local experiences such as cooking classes showcasing regional cuisine, tours of herb gardens and other interactive activities,” says Noordin.

Commenting on the Chinese market, Noordin says that China remains a strategic market with its 30 million-strong Muslim population. The Malaysian Inbound Chinese Association (Mica) has teamed up with ITC to develop tourism packages suited for Muslim visitors. This would also enhance the capabilities of tourist guides through specialised training so that they may become Muslim-Friendly Tourist Guides.

According to Noordin, 2024 marks the 50th anniversary of China-Malaysia diplomatic relations this year. The timing is perfect.

“The timing is right to move into this market. The market in China is huge and ITC would like to encourage more tourism industry players to look into the potential and opportunities,” says Noordin.

Malaysia has maintained a top spot in the Global Muslim Travel Index since its inception in 2015.

Commenting on the tourism industry, Mica President Datuk Dr Angie Ng says that Chinese Muslim tourists have a deep appreciation for Malaysia’s Muslim culture, food, shopping and the Ramadan experience.

“They come to Malaysia to experience a different Muslim dietary culture including over 200 types of kuih-muih offered at hotel Ramadan buffets. In Negri Sembilan, they were surprised with a sheep head dish, which offers a completely different flavour. One tourist shared that during his week-long stay, he visited different hotels to try various halal dishes daily. Chinese Muslim tourists are captivated by the stunning architecture of the mosques here. They also adore our beaches and are fond of buying colourful traditional Malay attire as gifts for family and friends,” says Ng.

On the accommodation front, Malaysian Association of Hotels President Datin Christina Toh says the hotel industry would continuously enhance its facilities to meet the growing demand of Muslim tourists as the market flourishes.

“Part of our star-rating hotel requirement includes at least one halal-certified outlet and the presence of Qibla signs. Some hotels can convert meeting rooms into prayer rooms while others provide shuttle services to nearby mosques,” says Toh.

Toh also says that Chinese tourists, including free independent travellers, are increasing due to visa-free entry and improved accessibility.

“Malaysia’s reputation as a Muslim-friendly destination is well established,” says Toh.

Notes from the Editor: This article has been edited from its original publication here.

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