Indonesia hopes Islamic tourism drive can draw more tourists

2015-02-24 04:59:34 | Al Muslim News
Indonesia hopes Islamic tourism drive can draw more tourists


Lombok, island of 1,000 mosques, is at the heart of an Islamic tourism drive in Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population and is hoping to boost the number of visitors from wealthy Middle Eastern countries. Indonesia is also seeking to promote its Islamic heritage, from numerous places of worship to shrines dedicated to ancient Muslim preachers. Indonesia is the world’s biggest archipelago nation, made up of more than 17,000 islands in Southeast Asia, but its tourism industry much lesser than the neighboring Malaysia and Thailand Foreign tourists visited to Indonesia 8.8 million in 2013 as compared with 25.72 million in Malaysia and 26.55 million in Thailand. While there are no official statistics for “sharia” tourism in Indonesia, the sector is experiencing strong growth internationally. Only around 190,000 Middle Eastern tourists came to Indonesia in 2013, according to official figures, but authorities hope their Islamic tourism drive can attract them. Authorities are planning to construct a huge Islamic centre that will contain a mosque, a hotel and a study library, and specially trained tour guides will point Muslim visitors in the direction of the nearest mosque at prayer time. Lombok, long overshadowed by it’s neighboring, Hindu-majority Bali Island, a great tourist destination in the country, hopes the drive can help raise its income. Other parts of Indonesia are hoping to advantage from the initiative. Aceh province, in western Indonesia and the only part of the country to enforce Islamic sharia laws, and the capital Jakarta are both seeking to attract Middle Eastern tourists, who often bring many family members with them and spend lavishly. In Lombok, hotels are also promoting themselves as Islamic, with nine so far having gained coveted sharia certification. Alcohol-free cocktails are available, the call to prayer is being listened five times a day through the buildings, and hotel workers gently turns away unmarried couples..

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