By Zalina Mohd Som
DEPUTY Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak called for a coordinating body or secretariat to be formed to seriously look into the strategies and marketing of Islamic tourism.
"Malaysia should take the lead in this. I believe the time has come for some concrete efforts to galvanise our joint abilities to work on this initiative properly," he said in his speech at the official opening of the inaugural Global Islamic Tourism Conference and Exhibition 2008 held in Putrajaya International Convention Centre on July 31.
He also proposed that the promoters work with international bodies which subscribe to the same ideals and objectives.
"But let me also warn you... pushing a new idea through is not easy. In fact, it is never easy. Herein then lies the challenges before all of you."
"If you set mental blocks within yourself, then you will not succeed. If you allow yourselves to be sidetracked by petty issues and be weighed down by baggage of old taboos and unfounded fears, then you will fail," he added.
His speech was read by Tourism Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said who attended the event on his behalf.
Najib said the initiative to push Islamic tourism was an idea whose time had come, and merited careful consideration and meticulous planning.
"My advice is simple and straight - get your structure in place and come up with a sustainable plan of action," he said.
The deputy prime minister said Islamic tourism was a niche market which was growing in volume and significance.
On the Global Islamic Tourism Conference and Exhibition (GITC) initiative, he lauded the National Tourism Council of Malaysia (NTCM), a non-governmental organisation for undertaking the initiative.
"Whatever efforts undertaken by NGOs for the same objective of tourism promotion is always welcomed and appreciated. This exhibition and conference is the inaugural one and I like to see this continue in the coming years," he said.
Meanwhile, Azalina said her ministry and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is in charge of religious affairs, have agreed to form a joint committee to discuss strategies and approaches to promote Islamic tourism.
She said the committee would also communicate with relevant tourism councils and state tourism representatives to come up with better strategies.
At a gala dinner held at Sheraton Subang on the same day, GITC organising chairman Datuk Ahmad Talib announced the appointment of Tan Sri Sabaruddin Chik, the country's first Tourism Minister, as the chief jury for the selection committee to list the Seven Wonders of the Islamic World. The committee would consist of local and international historians, academicians and scholars whose views would be sought to identify and shortlist the many Islamic wonders in the world.
The listing will be divided into a few categories including buildings with historical and architectural beauty and destinations either having an Islamic background or are located in an Islamic-based country.
Ahmad said nominations for the listing can now be made online at the official website www.islamic-tourism.com.
"The listing will then be published in a travel guide book similar to those famous guide books like the Lonely Planet and eventually be turned into a coffee table book," he added.
He later accompanied Sabaruddin and NTCM president Datuk Mohd Zainal Abidin Abdul Kadir to launch the logo for the Seven Wonders of the Islamic World.
The three-day GITC held from July 30 to Aug 1 showcased the potential of Islamic tourism and provided a venue for the industry players to deliberate, transact and conduct business.
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