Sarawak perfect backdrop for Islamic tourism
By Jude Toyat
SARAWAK HAS MUCH TO offer in terms of Islamic tourism because of its racial diversity, said Islamic Tourism Centre Manager (Research and Training) Nur Alyssa Coraline Yussin.
“Islamic tourism is all about peace. Looking at many races living together in peace and harmony in Sarawak; that is a unique feature that Sarawak can actually highlight,” she said when met by The Borneo Post SEEDS on May 15 at Santubong Homestay.
Alyssa was here for the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme (MTCP) short training course on marketing and promotions of Islamic tourism destinations held in Kuching from May 10 to 15.
The course was organised by Islamic Tourism Center with support from the Ministry of Tourism Sarawak, Sarawak Tourism Board and Tourism Malaysia Sarawak. It was funded by the MTCP under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is the 12th course conducted since 2007.
“We have different title each time, and for this time our focus was basically on the marketing and promotion of Islamic tourism.”
On the products available for the Islamic tourism sector here, Alyssa said that one of them has to be the Islamic Information Centre (IIC) in Kuching.
“In Peninsular Malaysia, we usually organise mosque visits. Here in Sarawak, apart from the mosque, Muslim travellers can also visit the IIC since they promote interface dialogues, understanding and peace,” she added saying that she had also proposed the tagline for the centre that is ‘Peace through Tourism’ after a visit there.
“Islamic tourism is also about nature, which is a very significant part of Sarawak.
“It is mentioned in the holy book that we have to appreciate nature because that is God’s creation. Sarawak is so blessed with nature which can promote the appreciation for the environment and can also be another interesting element in Islamic tourism in Sarawak,” she added.
The objectives of this course is to understand the role of different stakeholders in destination marketing based on Malaysia’s experience, to explore the issues associated with the planning, marketing and promotion of Islamic tourism destination as well as study on the various marketing strategies; and to share Malaysia’s best practice experiences in Islamic travel and tourism.
According to Alyssa, Islamic tourism is not that much different from conventional tourism, except that it incorporates and emphasises on Islamic values.
“The highlight of Islamic tourism is predominantly on the emphasis of Halal foods, because that is the most important thing. When people travel, the first thing they will look for is food, so when it comes to Islamic tourism, we have to make sure that we always provide Halal food which is an important requirement for Muslims.
“We should also look after the obligation as a Muslim to pray. Halal food and prayers are two basic important highlights in Islamic tourism. So, if we are thinking of coming up with an Islamic tourism package, we have to make sure that there is something that the visitors can learn about Islam,” she explained.
Through this course, Alyssa hoped that they can promote Malaysia as a whole.
“I believe that the best promotion is with us bringing them here to experience the local Sarawakian and Malaysian hospitality themselves. We hope that when they go back to their own country, they will help to spread the words and bring good message about us here.
“It is also important for us to promote good relationship with the other Islamic countries,” she added.
A total of 15 participants took part in the course representing various ministries and departments directly or indirectly involved in marketing and promotion of tourism in their respective countries.
They are from Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Gambia, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda and Uzbekistan. Twelve of them are from the member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Conferences (OIC) and the remaining four are from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
The participants were selected by ITC with help from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Putrajaya based on their job scopes and their ability to speak in English.
“Last year, we did two similar courses in Malacca and Johor for the first trip, then to Penang and Langkawi for the next one. This year, we brought them to Sarawak and hopefully somewhere else next year.
“We visited the Sarawak Cultural Village, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, Islamic Information Centre and here at Santubong Homestay. After this, these participants will head to Kuala Lumpur from May 16 to 23 for their next visit,” Alyssa said.