According to the Vietnam National Tourism Administration, the number of tourists from Malaysia in September reached more than 30,000 people, about double the previous month. Malaysia is Vietnam's fifth-largest international tourist market.
Thuy Nguyen, director of Indochina Unique Tourist said, “Although the majority of Malaysian tourists coming to Vietnam now are of Chinese origin, I believe that more and more Malaysian Muslims will come here because the market is continuing to grow and a number of direct flights connecting Malaysia with Ho Chi Minh City, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, and Danang have been put into operation."
Malaysia is not the only Muslim market that the Vietnamese tourism industry can access. There are an estimated 1.8 billion Muslims living worldwide, of which ASEAN has about 255 million.
The increase in the number of visitors from countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, India, and the Middle East also brings an abundant source of Muslim visitors and stable growth for the Vietnamese tourism industry.
Bobby Nguyen, chairman of Rustic Hospitality, said that Muslim tourists are known for being willing to spend and liking high-end services, especially those from India and the Middle East.
“Muslim tourists love shopping and are willing to spend a lot of money on this. They also often choose to stay at 4-5 star hotels, while European tourists mainly stay at 3-4 star hotels and prioritise paying more for experiences," Nguyen said.
Nguyen currently owns two ecotourism areas located in the Mekong Delta and Ninh Binh province. His resort was once asked by a Malaysian partner to coordinate welcoming a group of tourists from the country, but the booking was eventually cancelled due to the difficulty in providing the special requirements for accommodation and food specifically for them.
"It's a pity to ignore the Muslim tourism market, but not all businesses have enough resources for it," he added.
Lack of infrastructure as well as specific services and products for Muslim tourists are the main reasons why this market has not achieved rapid growth compared to others.
According to tourism businesses, a mandatory requirement for Muslim tourists is that the hotel must have a separate prayer area because Muslims often pray several times a day. In addition, they also require restaurants to have professional chefs serving Halal food and the food must also have accompanying certification.
"Aside from big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, very few destinations in Vietnam can meet these criteria," said Le Quoc Viet, CEO of Santa Vietnam and hoteljob.vn.
According to a survey conducted on hoteljob.vn, the average spending of a Muslim tourist from India is about $1,000 per day. However, most tours designed specifically for Muslim tourists stop at basic experiences, due to the complexity of food and accommodation requirements.
At tourist destinations such as Sapa or Halong, most tourist groups only choose to go for a day or a maximum of two days and will prepare their own food.
"The tourism industry should still approach the Muslim market to diversify the number of tourists because traditional markets such as China or Europe have not yet recovered," Viet said.
“The peak tourist season at the end of the year has begun, but the number of bookings from European and American tourist groups is still low. Hotels are entering the race to reduce prices to attract customers. How to maintain it until the market fully recovers is also a challenge for them," he added.
According to the Global Muslim Travel Index 2023 report published by Mastercard and Crescent Rating, Muslim tourist arrivals are expected to reach 140 million in 2023 and 160 million in 2024. By 2028, Muslim arrivals are expected to hit 230 million, with projected expenditure of $225 billion.
While Vietnam is only considering Muslim tourists as a potential market and has access problems, Thailand, a formidable competitor in the regional tourism race, has achieved certain success. According to the same report, Thailand ranks fourth in the list of non-Muslim markets popular with Muslim tourists, after Singapore, the United Kingdom, and Taiwan.