Saturday, October 30, 2010

Brunei Tourism promotes country as Islamic travel destination

By Ahmad Shaheeb in Kuala Lumpur

The CEO of Brunei Tourism has highlighted the need for member countries of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to work together in promoting a Joint Islamic Tourism programme that could bring vast benefits to the region.

Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh Mohamed, CEO of Brunei Tourism was presenting a working paper on "OIC Member Countries - New Destination for Islamic Travel and Tourism: How To Tap The Growing Market" at the two-day International Islamic Tourism Conference and Travel Mart held at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

He was part of a three-member panel that included distinguished speakers Dato' Amiruddin Abu, Deputy Director General of Tourism Malaysia and Dr Syed Irfan Ahmad, CEO of irhal.com. The panel was moderated by Dr Nor'ain Othman, Deputy Dean of Research and Industry Linkage at Universiti Teknologi MARA.

Sheikh Jamaluddin described OIC as "an association of diverse cultures, geographic locations, climates, ways of life and environments".

"If we look carefully at all the countries belonging to the OIC, we can seriously offer excellent products in terms of environment such as pristine rainforest, crystal clear corals, top quality ski slopes and many top unique monuments and ancient mosques not found elsewhere," he said.

"In terms of product offering, it is really top-notch and second-to-none.

"What is needed now is for OIC to have greater marketing cooperation among member countries that can promote OIC to the world in a better tourism light. Some of us here also belong to many world organisations such as APEC, ASEAN and so on. I guess the most famous and widely reported is APEC since the top three countries with nancial and military might belong in this organisation. APEC and ASEAN put tourism as one of (their) top priorities in developing economic activity."

Tourism is the largest industry in the world that contributes to some 10 per cent of the world GDP and working population, said the CEO of Brunei Tourism.

"Tourism is not only appreciated for it's economic benets but is also seen as an instrument of peace," Sheikh Jamaluddin added, citing the words of the late President of South Korea, Mr Kim Dae-jung when South Korea hosted the 2001 APEC Tourism Ministerial Meeting.

Speaking from the OIC perspective on promoting Islamic tourism destinations, Sheikh Jamaluddin suggested that brochures on the "World of Islamic Civilisation" be produced under the OIC. The brochures would list the various iconic structures in each of the OIC member countries.

Sheikh Jamaluddin went on to say that Brunei is in itself a Halal destination. Brunei is where most restaurants and all fast foods are Halal, hotels don't serve alcohol but show the Qiblat and provide prayer mats in all hotel rooms, there are Suraus everywhere, medical procedures are Halal, there are no bars, night clubs or public displays of vice activities, he said.

"These attributes will make Muslim visitors feel comfortable and have doubt-free holidays from a religious point of view, while the country is liberal and tolerant enough to make non-Muslims feel at ease while visiting," said the CEO of Brunei Tourism.

Asked by the Bulletin on how the conference and travel mart can help boost Brunei's tourism, Sheikh Jamaluddin said, "We are promoting Islamic tourism in Brunei together with Malaysia.

"In Borneo there is no building of Islamic value that people will travel to. In Brunei our oldest mosque is about 50 years old but what we do have for Islamic tourism are Islamic artefacts that is kept in the State Mufti's Office, and some of (the artefacts) are part of the personal collection of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam."

The CEO added that Brunei Tourism is targeting the Southeast Asia market.

"That way, they don't have to travel so far to Middle East countries like Bahrain and Iran," he said.

He also believed that the packages are not just tailored for Muslims but for everyone, saying that "there are many non-Muslims who are interested to learn and appreciate the past histories of great Islamic Civilisations."

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend
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