By Theodore Koumelis – Travel Daily News
BANGKOK – The Acting Governor and Deputy Governor for International Marketing (Europe, Africa, Middle East and Americas) of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Mrs Juthaporn Rerngronasa presided over a special event to promote Thailand as a “Muslim Friendly Destination” by inviting 113 representatives of travel agencies and media from 13 countries around the world to participate in the Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM +) 2015.
The “Muslim Friendly Destination” function held on 5 June, 2015, at the Impact Exhibition Centre, Impact Muang Thong Thani, alongside the Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM +) 2015.
In the morning session, there were special lectures on the readiness of Thai tourism products and services to accommodate the Muslim tourist market by highly qualified speakers Assoc. Dr. Pakorn Priyakorn, President of the Foundation of the Islamic Centre of Thailand, and Mr. Imtiaz Muqbil, Executive Editor, Travel Impact Newswire. In the afternoon session, there were a table-top sale between Thai tourism operators interested in attracting the Muslim market and representatives of the invited travel agents and media. Later, they also had a chance to meet with other tourism operators exhibiting at the TTM+ 2015.
The event provided further information about tourism products and services for the Muslim market; such as, some prominent Muslim landmarks, prayer rooms, Muslim community, hotels, Halal restaurants and other attractions tailored to this market segment, including amusement parks and theme parks. The participants also discussed opportunities for tourism in the southern provinces proposing routes linking Sungai Kolok – Kelantan for promoting Muslim tourists between Thailand and Malaysia. In addition, TAT led the group of Muslim travel agents and media to survey tourism products and services for Muslim tourists in Pattaya, Hua Hin and Phuket.
Mrs. Juthaporn Rerngronasa delivered keynote speech during the Muslim Friendly Destination forum.
The “Muslim Friendly Destination” is a pilot project to promote Muslim visitors to Thailand. TAT realises the potential and readiness of Thailand to promote this market.
At present, the population of Muslims worldwide is estimated at 1.6 billion people, or about one in four of the total world population. The Muslim population in the ASEAN region is about 240 million, a significantly large and growing market, especially from Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The potential will rise further after the AEC 2015 takes effect by the end of this year.
Other target markets; such as, India, the GCC countries (United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait), Egypt, Iran and North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria) are also very attractive markets in this category.
Although the Asia-Pacific region is a major destination for Muslim tourists led by Malaysia and Indonesia, there are still a lot of opportunities for Thailand to tap the market. A lot of new products are emerging to cater to it; such as, a leading Halal hotel scheduled to open in October 2015 in Bangkok, quality Halal restaurants in the major tourist cities, especially in the Southern provinces as well as the promotion of Halal Lanna food in the northern provinces.
TAT believes this “Muslim Friendly Destination Mega Fam trip” will help to increase the proportion of the Muslim target group, especially amongst the high-end and intermediate markets, family and women groups. According to the Mastercard Crescent Rating Global Muslim Travel Index 2015, Thailand was ranked second of the most popular destinations for Muslim tourists from all over world (in the category of non-Muslim countries).
By Arno Maierbrugger/Gulf Times Correspondent Bangkok
The Muslim population in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is about 240million, which is a huge and growing market for tourism, especially from Indonesia and Malaysia which are home to the majority of Muslims in the region. The potential is expected to rise further after the Asean Economic Community 2015 comes into effect as expected by the end of this year.
Beyond the region, the TAT focuses on source market such as the Gulf Cooperation Council, especially on the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, as well as on Iran, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.
Last December, the Halal Science Centre of Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, the Central Islamic Council of Thailand and Halal Standard Institute of Thailand joined forces and launched “Thailand Diamond Halal”, a brand concept under which all halal products and services sourced in Thailand will be marketed, including halal tourism and halal medical tourism.
According to Prof Dr Pakorn Priyakorn, director of the Halal Standard Institute of Thailand, the brand concept can be adopted by hospitality companies, hotels and tour operators and would ensure that, among other things, hotels would be equipped with prayer facilities including ablution rooms, prayer rugs, qibla direction, women’s prayer garment and restrooms with rinse spray hoses. Prayer rooms and related facilities should also be part of public places, such as shopping malls, theme parks, offices, highway rest stops and others. Tour operators should offer Islamic heritage tours and bespoke Muslim-friendly travel packages, also for special seasons and holidays such as Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Hospitals catering to medical tourist should also provide Muslim-friendly facilities throughout the country under the halal branding, Priyakorn suggested.
To find all these places, a new smartphone application in both English and Thai – and Arabic and Bahasa Indonesia at a later point of time – will be available from June 22 for both Android and iOS systems for download from the TAT’s website (www.tourismthailand.org/muslimfriendly) or from App Store or Google Play, with which Muslim travellers can find halal restaurants and hotels, mosques and halal tour operators and can read news and a Thai guidebook, says Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, executive director of TAT’s Information Technology Office.