INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON MUSLIM TOURISM
YB DATO’ SRI AZALINA DATO’ OTHMAN SAID
MINISTER OF TOURISM, MALAYSIA
IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON MUSLIM TOURISM, HAJJ & UMRAH PACKAGES 2008
AT GRAND BALLROOM, KUALA LUMPUR CONVENTION CENTRE (KLCC)
Tn. Hj Zainal Abidin Ahmad
Conference Organizing Chairman
Mr Ngiam Foon
President, Malaysian Association Of Tours And Travel Agents (MATTA)
Distinguished Speakers and Participants
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh and a very good morning to all of you.
I would like to thank the Malaysian Association Of Tour And Travel Agents (MATTA) for inviting me to launch this International Conference on Muslim Tourism, Hajj & Umrah Packages 2008 (InCoMTHU ’08) with the theme “Striving for Excellence and Glory in Muslim Travel & Tourism”.
Your initiative in organizing this conference is highly commendable and timely. It will provide the opportunity for participants to exchange views and learn about the best practices in the business of Muslim tourism. It is vital for the in-bound operators to be knowledgeable, efficient and able to provide the services beyond the expectation of Muslim tourists. We want our visitors to leave the destination with fond memories and come back repeatedly.
In this regard, I am happy to note that we have among us, distinguished speakers from Indonesia, Syria and Singapore who will share with us their invaluable expertise and experiences in this field.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
As we all understand, the global travel landscape changed tremendously after the September 11 incident. It is sad that the so-called “Islamic terrorism or Islamic extremism” is portrayed as the source of all evils. The social climate facing Muslims in certain countries has deteriorated. The comfort level of Muslims visiting these countries too has deteriorated.
According to OIC, the world Muslim population is estimated to be 1.5 billion across at least 57 countries. As such, one can imagine the immense tourism business potentials that could be tapped from this huge market and Malaysia has all the ingredients to be a leading destination for the Muslim tourists.
Perhaps efforts should be made to attract greater participation from the different sectors of the hospitality industry, both locally and overseas, for future meetings of this nature. It will promote Islamic solidarity and strategic partnership between suppliers and buyers within the Muslim travel fraternity.
Tourism has proven to be an industry of incredible growth. According to World Tourism Organisation (WTO), international tourist arrivals grew by an estimated 6% to reach a new record figure of nearly 900 million in 2007 which represents nearly 52 million more arrivals than in 2006. The Middle East led the regional growth ranking with an estimated 13% rise to 46 million international tourist arrivals followed by Asia and the Pacific with 10% rise to 185 million.
For most developing countries including Malaysia, tourism sector has become one of the most important pillars for their economic development. This is because apart from being a foreign exchange earner, it also provides employment opportunities and creates multiplier effects on the other related sectors such as transportation, shopping and food industry.
However, this industry is facing many challenges that are affecting tourist flow. Among them are:
· Financial crisis in many tourist generating markets
· Rising oil prices, contributing to significant increase in travelling cost. Tourists will tend to reduce long-haul trips.
· Strong competition from regional destinations
· The wide use of Internet by consumers as an alternative to travel agencies in selecting and purchasing of travel packages
I believe that these will be among the issues addressed by this conference. Through the use of effective dialogue and collective reasoning, I am sure that we will be able to advance towards our goal of establishing credible Islamic travel communities in the years to come.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Before I conclude, it is my sincere wish to see all participants at this conference fully utilising the platform before us to further promote Muslim travel for the benefit of the members of the Muslim countries.
To our foreign guests, may I take this opportunity to invite you to stay on after the conference to savour the unique sights and sounds of this country.
With BISMILLAHIRRAHMANIRRAHIM, I now declare the International Conference on Muslim Tourism, Hajj & Umrah Packages 2008 open.