KHIVA: Malaysia has received over 4.5 million Muslim travellers from abroad and managed to retain its position as the premier destination for Muslims in 2023, according to the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.

This marks the ninth time Malaysia has clinched the top spot in the Mastercard-Crescentrating Global Muslim Travel Index.

The nation was also named the “Top Muslim-Friendly Destination of the Year” for the second year running in the Halal in Travel Awards 2024, showcasing the country’s intense efforts in growing the Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality segment.

These were revealed by the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Roslan Abdul Rahman in his speech at the 12th Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers at Khiva in Uzbekistan.

“With a two billion Muslim population worldwide, the Muslim tourist market is shaping a new and significant segment of the tourism industry. This is strategically advantageous for Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states to meet the growing demand for Muslim-friendly products and services, especially in the tourism supply chain.

“Therefore, we must adopt a holistic approach to Islamic tourism development that prioritises sustainability, resilience and equity, particularly in the face of global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, geopolitical challenges and socio-economic inequalities,” said Roslan.

He said tourism is a significant driver of economic growth, job creation, poverty alleviation and cultural exchange.

“It may empower marginalised communities, promote peace and understanding as well as propel inclusive and sustainable development.

“The growth of the tourism industry is vital to the economy. Promotion and marketing programmes are the main mechanisms that stimulate and enliven the tourism industry.”

Uzbekistan Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change Minister Aziz Abdukhakimov said the digitalisation of tourism and setting up of funds for touristic projects were among topics discussed at the conference on Sunday.

He was speaking to the media at the conference held between May 31 and June 2, with the theme “Development of the Tourism Industry in a Sustainable and Resilient Way”.

He added that digitisation of tourism is important for future tourism.

“We propose to establish and develop an Islamic financial fund, which will help us with finance, fund big projects, develop touristic projects and construct complex cultural heritage places like museums and galleries.”

The conference called upon OIC member states to invest in digitalisation for promoting and marketing their respective destinations.

They were urged to improve international visitor experience with a view to speeding up recovery efforts from the Covid-19 pandemic.