NORTH-west China's Ningxia, the only provincial-level autonomous region in the country with a one-third ethnic Hui population, is keen to woo Muslim tourists from South-east Asia.
Xu Xiaoping, deputy director-general, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region Tourism Administration Bureau, said: “We have vast Islamic cultural and tourism resources that will appeal to South-east Asia’s Muslim travellers. Yinchuan Hedong Airport has special prayer rooms, halal cuisine is readily available (in the destination), and several hotels feature Mecca-direction signages, hence strongly positioning Ningxia as a Muslim tourism destination.”
Xu pointed out that the China-Arab States Economic and Trade Forum – launched in 2010 – has already increased awareness of Ningxia in the Middle East, which is why the bureau is now turning its attention to South-east Asia. He added that the bureau was working with Yinchuan Hedong Airport to invite carriers to launch flights between South-east Asia and the provincial capital.
The bureau conducted a presentation for Singapore and Malaysia tour operators at CITM 2012, showcasing its offerings including homestays with Muslim families and famed mosques.
China Sightseeing International Travel Service Ningxia’s general manager, An Ya Ping, said his company had seen a 20-25 per cent increase in Muslim travellers from South-east Asia over the past two years, with Malaysia, Indonesia and India as its biggest source markets in the region.
An also plans to launch more multi-province tours spanning Ningxia to Beijing, Qinghai and Xiamen, which also have significant Muslim presence.
Said An: “Muslim travellers are more at ease in Ningxia, which possesses closer cultural and religious affinities with Islamic nations than other parts of China. We often see repeat Muslim visitors as well as families who discover Ningxia by word of mouth.”