DOT Prioritizes Halal Tourism as Philippines Gains Recognition as Muslim-Friendly Destination

June 3, 2024

Big win for the Philippines! The country was just named an “Emerging Muslim-friendly destination” for the second year in a row by the Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2024. This ranking looks at how welcoming places are for Muslim travelers. The news came out at the Halal in Travel Global Summit in Singapore held last May 30.

In its 2024 results, the GMTI described the Philippines as an “Emerging Muslim-friendly non-OIC Destination “focusing on building capacity to welcome tourists through various initiatives. These include Halal food across the destination and integrating Muslim- Friendly amenities at 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.”

Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco was elated with the recent citation noting that this is an affirmation of the current 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. 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,” enthused Secretary Frasco.

Halal Tourism presents a rapidly growing market segment. 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,” added the tourism chief.

Beefing up Halal Tourism in the Philippines

To recall, 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 (ATM) 2024 attended by Frasco, the DOT signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Megaworld Hotels and Resorts, committing all their properties to be Muslim-friendly.

The Philippines also signed an MOU with the State of Qatar in April this year, aiming at strengthening cooperation, particularly 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. This, in turn, fosters goodwill and strengthens our reputation as a welcoming and inclusive travel destination,” stressed Secretary Frasco.

Positive Recovery rate in arrivals from GCC Countries

According to DOT data, arrivals from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC Middle East) have posted a recovery of 115 percent.

In 2019, arrivals from the Middle East region accounted for 68,562. Visitor arrivals from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reached 43,748, followed by UAE with 10,192 tourists, and Kuwait with 6,309. Meanwhile, tourists from Bahrain totaled 3,296, while Oman and Qatar had 2,526 and 2,491 visitors, respectively.

In 2023, foreign tourist arrivals from the GCC have overtaken the 2019 figures, reaching 79,041 and posting a 115.28 percent recovery rate. UAE led the surge of tourist arrivals to the Philippines with 33,769, followed by Saudi Arabia (19,311), Qatar (10,438), Kuwait (6,915), Bahrain (5,886), and Oman (2,695).

GMTI 2024 Rankings

Meanwhile, according to Mastercard, “the Philippines recorded an increase in its score on communications compared to 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. 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.

Meanwhile, Fazal Bahardeen, Founder & CEO of CrescentRating, also added: “It is also positive to see the Philippines continue to improve its score, which demonstrates the unwavering commitment of the Department of Tourism 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.

Developed jointly by card services corporation Mastercard and leading Halal travel authority in 2011 CrescentRating, “GMTI, now in its ninth year, analyzes data across 145 destinations using the ACES framework, built around metrics on Access, Communication, Environment, and Services. Over time, the criteria have evolved to keep pace with the changing needs of Muslim travelers.

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