Thailand launches Muslim-friendly tourist app

BANGKOK - Thailand on Monday launched a smartphone app to attract Muslim visitors, something that could help further boost an industry which has been steadily recovering since a 2014 coup.

Thailand is predominantly Buddhist but parts of the south are majority Muslim. Known for its laissez-faire attitude towards travellers, powder-white beaches and as an aviation hub, Thailand draws millions of tourists each year.

Now its tourism body hopes the new app will help further boost Thailand's tourism sector, which makes up about 10 per cent of its economy.

The industry took a beating last year as some foreign governments issued warnings against non-essential travel to Thailand due to political unrest and a May 22 coup, but it has been steadily recovering.

Efforts to welcome Muslim travellers to Thailand come amid rising anti-Muslim sentiment in some Western countries and recent Islamist militant attacks.

The new app will be available on Google Inc's Android and Apple Inc's iOS systems, the Tourism Authority of Thailand said in a statement.

With search and navigation features, it will help visitors find hotels and shopping centres with prayer rooms and halal, or permissible under Islamic law, restaurants, said Juthaporn Rerngronasa, acting governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Among non-Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries, Thailand was ranked the second most popular place for Muslim travellers to visit in the world after Singapore by the Global Muslim Travel Index in 2015.

"We believe this is because we have the required range of products and services for Muslim travellers," said Juthaporn.

The app is available in English and Thai but will be expanded to include Arabic and Bahasa Indonesia.

Thailand expects a record 29.5 million tourists this year, up 19 per cent from 2014, its tourism council said last week.

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