Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the tourism industry should always be on the lookout for "new frontiers" or niches to stay competitive.
Efforts to draw Middle Eastern tourists since the 1990s have proven successful and the concept of Islamic tourism was now ripe for further expansion.
Najib proposed the formation of a coordinating body to develop marketing strategies for Islamic tourism.
He also welcomed non-governmental tourism bodies to initiate such efforts. "Islamic tourism is a niche market which is growing in volume and significance. In challenging times, we need to adjust accordingly and take into account the global economic environment.
"Your initiative to push for Islamic tourism is an idea whose time has come," Najib said in his speech at the launch of the Global Islamic Tourism Conference and Exhibition (GITC) yesterday.
His speech was read by Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman, who represented Najib.
GITC defines Islamic tourism as an economic concept which includes development of new tourist destinations, as a cultural concept focusing on Islamic topics and heritage, and as a religious concept by including gender-segregation, alcohol-free venues and Islamic-financed and-organised tourism.
Azalina said the Tourism Ministry and the Islamic Affairs Department under the Prime Minister's Department had set up a joint committee to develop strategies for Islamic tourism.