Tourism minister apologises over deputy’s ‘preferred Muslim destination’ remark for Langkawi, says Malaysia open to all tourists

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, June 29 — Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing has apologised over his deputy minister’s remark earlier this week about potential promotion of Langkawi as a “preferred Muslim destination”, saying that all tourism destinations in Malaysia are open to tourists globally.

According to local daily Sin Chew Daily, Tiong suggested that Deputy Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan may not have explained the matter well.

“A few days ago, I was abroad on duty, and the deputy minister may not have explained it very clearly, resulting in an uproar. I already contacted the deputy minister to understand this matter,” he was quoted saying at event last night in Penang.

He reportedly stressed that there are no tourism destinations in Malaysia that are meant for certain religions or certain races only, and that all destinations are open to tourists worldwide.

He stressed that Malaysia is a multicultural and multiracial country and that it cannot rely on just one race including for tourism destinations, and that what was needed are destinations that all tourists can go to and that no destinations can be made to only fulfil the needs of a certain religion.

Tiong’s remarks come after the deputy tourism minister’s Monday remarks in the Dewan Rakyat drew controversy.

Based on the Hansard on Monday, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok had asked questions regarding the Tourism Ministry’s strategies, preparations and challenges faced for Visit Malaysia Year 2026, and had also asked a supplementary question on whether Malaysia faced fierce competition from neighbouring countries in attracting foreign tourists.

Kok had said that certain states in the country have policies that are less friendly to foreign tourists such as not allowing drinking of alcohol, the wearing of shorts or strict dress codes, and asked if this would affect the Tourism Ministry’s efforts and how the ministry could attract more foreign tourists to visit states which implement such policies.

In response, Khairul Firdaus said the ministry does engage with state governments and that matters raised by Kok are actually under control and urged to not focus on matters that are actually not serious.

Khairul Firdaus had also said there was a focus on niche sectors in order to compete with other countries, and that it may be quite difficult for Langkawi to compete with islands in neighbouring countries.

“That is why maybe we will composition Langkawi as a preferred Muslim destination island so that it is more towards families, more towards recreation or spirituality. That is why we have to see, each state playing its own role. No need for each state to do the same thing because it will affect competitiveness,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat.

On Wednesday, Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor reportedly said the Kedah state government had never discussed and never said it wanted to make Langkawai a preferred Muslim tourism destination, noting that it is one of top 10 islands in the world and that any tourist is welcome to visit the island. He had also said there is a need to safeguard Langkawi’s prestige and not just limit it to Muslims and noted that the island is open to all.