Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Philippines Retains ‘Emerging Muslim-Friendly Destination’ Title


Philippines Retains ‘Emerging Muslim-Friendly Destination’ Title


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The Philippines retained its title as an emerging Muslim-friendly destination for the second straight year, according to the latest citations released by Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2024.

The citation for another Emerging Muslim-friendly non-Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) nation was announced at the Halal in Travel Global Summit in Singapore on May 30.

The GMTI said the Philippines focuses on “building capacity to welcome tourists through various initiatives,” including Halal food and integrating Muslim-friendly amenities in major tourist spots.

“Tourism authorities have placed Halal tourism high on their priority agenda, evidenced by their action to enhance the Halal tourism portfolio and raise awareness among tourism stakeholders about the values and practices important to Muslim travelers,” the GMTI said.

Mastercard, the American multinational payment card services firm, said the Philippines recorded an increase in its communications score since 2023.

“Among non-OIC destinations, the Philippines has steadily increased its appeal to Muslim tourists by strategically developing their Halal Tourism portfolio, enhancing halal accreditation of hotels and restaurants, and conducting Halal awareness orientations,” it said. “This effort builds on their achievement of winning the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination of the Year award in last year’s Halal in Travel Global Summit, based on GMTI 2023 results.”

Fazal Bahardeen, founder and chief executive officer of CrescentRating, said the improved score also demonstrates the “unwavering commitment of the Department of Tourism (DOT)” to bolstering Muslim-friendly tourism and advancing the destination’s appeal.

According to the joint report of Mastercard and CrescentRating, the Muslim population is projected to increase from 2.12 billion in 2024.

GMTI analyzes data across 145 destinations using the metrics access, communication, environment and services.

Over time, the criteria evolved to keep pace with the changing needs of Muslim travelers.

Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco on Saturday welcomed the citation and called it an “affirmation of the Marcos administration’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity.”

“The Philippine Department of Tourism recognizes the significance and potential of Halal Tourism in contributing to the growth and diversity of our tourism industry,” she said.

“As a country known for its warm hospitality, rich cultural heritage, and breathtaking natural attractions, catering to the needs of Muslim travelers through the development of Halal Tourism is crucial in ensuring that we raise our competitiveness in the global tourism market,” she added.

Frasco said Halal tourism presents a rapidly growing market segment and that the Philippines is committed to prioritizing it.

“By prioritizing this, we not only demonstrate our commitment to inclusivity and cultural sensitivity but also open up opportunities to attract more Muslim travelers from around the world, while expanding markets for our tourism stakeholders and creating more livelihood and employment for our fellow Filipinos,” she said.

The travel summit coincided with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s state visit to Brunei, where Frasco inked a tourism cooperation agreement with her counterpart in a bid to further develop Halal tourism in the Philippines, among others.

Halal Tourism is a priority product under the recently approved National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2023 to 2028.

On the sidelines of the recently held Arabian Travel Mart 2024, the DOT also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Megaworld Hotels and Resorts, committing all its properties to be Muslim-friendly.

The Philippines, likewise, signed an MOU with Qatar in April this year to boost cooperation in the aspects of mutual development, and growth of tourism and business events.

“Adapting to the changing needs of Muslim travelers by offering Halal-friendly accommodations, dining options, prayer facilities, and other services not only enhances the overall visitor experience but also showcases our respect for diverse cultural and religious practices,” Frasco said.

“This, in turn, fosters goodwill and strengthens our reputation as a welcoming and inclusive travel destination,” she added.


GCC states arrivals

Arrivals from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have already posted a recovery of 115 percent, the DOT said.

In 2019 before the pandemic, arrivals from the Middle East accounted for 68,562.

Visitor arrivals from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reached 43,748; United Arab Emirates (UAE), 10,192 tourists; Kuwait, 6,309; Bahrain, 3,296; Oman, 2,526; and Qatar, 2,491.

In 2023, tourist arrivals rose to a total 79,014.

The UAE led the surge of tourist arrivals with 33,769, followed by Saudi Arabia (19,311), Qatar (10,438), Kuwait (6,915), Bahrain (5,886), and Oman (2,695). (PNA)