SANTUBONG : Sarawak tourism industry players are keen to leverage the growing Muslim tourist market and are taking steps to meet the market needs through upskilling programmes with Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC), namely the Muslim-Friendly Tour Guides (MFTG) and the Mosque Visit Guide (MosVi) training programmes.
As a result, a total of 27 tourist guides licensed by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) have been recognised as the first batch in Sarawak to be certified as Muslim-Friendly Tourist Guides (MFTG). They received their certificates and lapel pins today after completing a three-day MFTG upskilling training with ITC last September in Kuching. This makes the total number of MFTGs in the whole of Malaysia stand at 113.
The MFTG training programme, introduced in 2017 under the Continuous Tourism Related Education (CTRE), equips guides with the skills and knowledge needed to attend to the Muslim tourist market. The training, which is also supported by the Industry Development Division of MOTAC, was conducted by speakers from ITC, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) and the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). It introduces participants to the Islamic Tourism concept, Muslim tourist needs, the Malaysian Standard (MS) 2610 – Muslim-Friendly Hospitality, Halal and Shariah concepts, as well as effective communications.
In the ceremony held in Damai Beach Resort, Santubong, ITC also launched the MFTG logo, which was designed as a lapel pin to be worn by certified tour guides as a means to distinguish their unique market expertise.
Sarawak’s interest in Islamic Tourism also saw several mosque administrators from the state attend another training programme organised by ITC – the Mosque Visit Guide (MosVi) training from 7 to 9 November. The training was held to understand and leverage the burgeoning attention to the interesting cultural heritage and historical attractions of mosque tourism from the public and tourists alike. The participants also received their certificates of participation today.
The MosVi training programme involved briefings by ITC and USIM on various topics including public speaking and communications skills as well as the history and roles of the mosque, etiquette of visiting mosques, and foundation in comparative religion. Participants also went on technical tours of several mosques and historical sites in Sarawak to enhance their learning experience about Islamic Tourism and mosque tourism programmes.
ITC has always been active in helping the public and tourism industry players in Sarawak to strengthen their Islamic Tourism ecosystem. On 27 November last year, ITC and Jabatan Agama Islam Sarawak (JAIS), an agency under Majlis Islam Sarawak (MIS), held the first-ever Mosque Tourism Seminar in Kuching. A total of 53 participants representing 15 mosques from all over Sarawak joined the programme to learn about the role of mosques in tourism. The programme was followed by a Mosque Trail Tour around Asajaya, Kuching and Sadong Jaya.
In addition, ITC has also certified seven hotels across the state with the Muslim-Friendly Accommodation Recognition (MFAR). The hotels are Pullman Kuching, Pullman Miri Waterfront, Hilton Kuching, The Waterfront Hotel Kuching, Grand Margherita Hotel, Riverside Majestic Hotel (Puteri Wing) and Riverside Majestic Hotel (Astana Wing).
With this new batch of Muslim-Friendly Tour Guides and Mosque Visit Guides from Sarawak, as well as the Muslim-Friendly hotels, Sarawak is playing an active role and showing strong potential as a Muslim-Friendly destination. The tourism industry players here are well-prepared to be key players in the industry, and their leadership is crucial, especially in welcoming Muslim tourists in the region from Indonesia, Brunei and beyond.