Hong Kong loses Malaysian visitors to Thailand due to limited halal options, says lawmaker citing Southeast Asian nation’s tourism officials

Hong Kong loses Malaysian visitors to Thailand due to limited halal options, says lawmaker citing Southeast Asian nation’s tourism officials

Some Malaysian Muslims preferred visiting Thailand over Hong Kong because the city offered limited halal-certified food options, a lawmaker has said citing the Southeast Asian nation’s tourism officials.

Lawmaker Nixie Lam Lam on Monday shared the feedback from Malaysian officials a day after a Hong Kong delegation met the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture of Malaysia, YB Khairul Firdaus bin Akbar Khan.

The delegation, comprising Hong Kong lawmakers, were on their first overseas duty visit for this term.

“[Officials] said some Muslims shared that they wanted to visit Hong Kong, but chose Thailand in the end because they thought it would be more convenient to eat there,” she said on the second day of the trip.

“We told them that we’ve been trying to make Hong Kong more halal-friendly so that Malaysian Muslims can have peace of mind during their stay here.”

Lam said Hong Kong could roll out a government halal certification system sooner to attract more tourists from the country and the Middle East.

The city’s Tourism Board officials had said two months ago it was considering establishing a new scheme next year.

The city currently relies on a halal certification system run by the Incorporated Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong, but it has often been accused of being too strict for restaurants to qualify.

There were 116 Halal-certified food premises in Hong Kong as of Monday.

Lawmaker Lawrence Tang Fei agreed that the limited halal-certified food offerings hindered tourism growth, adding that an official certification system could also benefit Chinese Muslims from the eight remote mainland cities newly covered under the Individual Visit Scheme.

Lam and Tang were part of the delegation led by Legislative Council President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen who were on a week-long duty visit to three Southeast Asia countries starting from Sunday.

Malaysia was the lawmakers’ first stop and included visits to the parliament, tourism authorities and business chambers. The group will head to Indonesia and Singapore next.

Wu Zhi Jian Beef Noodles, a halal restaurant on Hennessy Road, Wan Chai. Photo: Brian Rhoads

In the first three months this year, Malaysian visitors made more than 90,000 trips to Hong Kong, triple the number in the same period last year. Sixty-six per cent of Malaysians are Muslims.

Lawmaker Erik Yim Kong, also in Kuala Lumpur, suggested Hong Kong and Malaysia should join hands to formulate tourism strategies to appeal to visitors from the Middle East.

“More flights connecting Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur could encourage more Middle Eastern visitors to stop over the city before flying to Malaysia and other Southeast Asia countries,” he said.

On Monday, the group met the speaker of the House of Representatives of the Malaysian Parliament and the Malaysia Senate’s Special Select Committee on Social and Community Affairs.

Legco President Leung wrote on his Facebook page on Monday that lawmakers also briefed their counterparts on Hong Kong’s application to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world’s largest free-trade pact.

Leung highlighted that Malaysia was Hong Kong’s ninth-largest trading partner and called for fostering closer ties in bilateral trade in the future.



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