Home Culture Philippine Tourism Bets on Muslim-Friendly Branding

Philippine Tourism Bets on Muslim-Friendly Branding

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco (left) (Photo courtesy of DOT)

MANILA — The Philippines is aggressively positioning itself as an emerging Muslim-friendly destination, banking on its Islamic heritage and cultural ties with the Middle East to lure travelers from the lucrative halal tourism market.

In a strategic move during the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai this week, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco conducted a “listening session” with about 90 travel stakeholders from across the Gulf region. She highlighted the profound Islamic influence that has shaped Philippine culture, from shared traditions and architecture to deep religious connections.

“The Islamic influence connects the Philippines to the broader Islamic world, including the Middle East, fostering a shared appreciation for Islamic traditions, architecture and cultural customs,” Frasco told the delegates.

The diplomatic overture follows the Philippine government’s citation as an emerging Muslim-friendly destination at the Halal in Travel Global Summit last year. Since then, Manila has doubled down on efforts to attract Muslim visitors by developing its halal tourism portfolio with certified halal dining options, increased accreditations and awareness training.

International arrivals from the Middle East have rebounded remarkably since the pandemic’s depths, with staggering year-on-year growth of 419% from the United Arab Emirates, 547% from Qatar and 130% from Kuwait by 2023. Over a million airline seats are scheduled from the region this year alone.

“The Muslim travel market is poised to significantly contribute to the growth of the global tourism industry, with arrivals expected to reach 140 million by the end of 2023 and an estimated expenditure of USD225 billion by 2028,” Frasco said.

On the sidelines of the event, Frasco formalized a partnership with Megaworld Hotels and Resorts to establish more Muslim-friendly properties nationwide. The agreement commits all Megaworld properties to adhere to halal standards and Muslim-friendly practices.

Cleofe Albiso, managing director of Megaworld Hotels and Resorts, expressed enthusiasm for the collaboration, stating, “We are looking forward to our full support and utmost cooperation in attracting our Muslim brothers and sisters, which we need so much in our country.”

The Department of Tourism expects the partnership to further strengthen the country’s Halal and Muslim-friendly tourism standards, accommodation policies and wellness initiatives catering to Islamic cultural sensitivities.

As the global Muslim travel segment continues its ascent, the Philippine government is betting its centuries-old Islamic ties will give it a competitive edge in an increasingly crucial tourism vertical.