Muslim-friendly Tour Guide training course helps tourist guides to provide better services for Muslim travellers
Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) has spearheaded Islamic tourism development initiatives since its establishment in 2009. The centre offers various strategic opportunities to tourism stakeholders through training and capacity building, standards and certification, research, and many more.
One of its signature programmes is the Muslim-Friendly Tour Guide (MFTG) training course, which aims to equip tour guides with basic knowledge of Islam, Muslim’s faith-based needs, the importance of halal and the Islamic perspective of hospitality. Up to this day, the programme has successfully produced 113 MFTGs around Malaysia.
Nur Alyssa Coraline Yussin, Director of Research and Training, ITC, said the programme had a lukewarm response when it started as people were still hesitant and sceptical about it.
“Alhamdulillah, over the years, the first group of MFTGs, after their training, promoted the programme to their friends. So, the reception and response have been exceptionally well.
“In fact, for today’s session, we have 24 MOTAC-licensed tourist guides,” said Nur Alyssa during the sixth edition of the MFTG training course, held in Swiss Garden Hotel, Kuala Lumpur from Oct 11-13, 2022.”
Introducing improved modules and a new MFTG badge
To address the new challenges and landscape of the tourism industry, ITC reanalysed and restructured the modules of the MFTG training course and included more topics on ethics and communications.
“The latest addition to the module is basic faith understanding because it is crucial. We improved because we noticed during the last five editions, there had been many questions concerning the faith. We felt that we needed to call an expert in and have a session with all the tour guides so that they can have a session with this expert and ask questions concerning Islam which have been bogging them.”
Alyssa revealed that the participants of the sixth edition of the MFTG programme had an engaging session with the Imam of Masjid Jamek Sultan Abdul Samad Kuala Lumpur, Ustaz Yahya Mahyuddin Utoh Said, who explained to them the basic understanding of Islam. She also shared that ITC would soon introduce a new MFTG logo, printed on lapel pins, for certified MFTGs, to make it easier for people to identify them.
Good feedback from the participants
One of the programme participants, Sherwin Shankar, a freelance tour guide from Bangsar, said Muslim tourists have their own needs and requirements. The training course provided by ITC is crucial to prepare tourist guides to cater for the growing population of Muslim travellers.
“There are two important elements which are important for Muslim travellers: halal food requirements and prayer facilities,” he shared.
Another freelance tour guide, Tita, said: “It is a good programme by ITC because it is an exposure to Islam. Even I, as a Muslim, do not have much knowledge to explain to tourists about it. Sometimes I was not prepared to answer the questions they asked.”
The MFTG training course will help Muslim and non-Muslim tour guides understand how Islam is practised in Malaysia and worldwide. She shared an experience where a Turkish tourist pointed out the different practices practised by Muslims in Malaysia.
“We are happy to join this programme because there are so many contents that we as Muslims do not know. They explain about Azan, the pillars of Islam, etc.,” she said, highlighting mosque tourism as one of the Islamic Tourism products that should be promoted further.
Another participant, Alken Wong, had been a freelance tour guide since 2007. Based in Klang, Wong stated that Muslim-friendly tourism was new to him. He said the MFTG programme was good and every tour guide should attend the training.
“Before this, non-Muslims might have doubts or misunderstandings about Islam or Muslims. This training course clears our doubts. We learn how to handle Muslim tourists better.”