PREDOMINANTLY Catholic Philippines is gradually expanding its limited inventory of halal travel products to capture more of the small yet steadily growing Muslim market.
The Department of Tourism (DoT) and the Philippine Travel Agencies Association regularly conduct seminars, trainings and meetings with their Middle Eastern counterparts on meeting the needs of this high-yielding market, while DoT supports the Islamic Da’Wah Council of the Philippines (IDCP) to grant more establishments halal accreditation.
IDCP president Abdul Rahman Linzag said there are only a “handful” of halal-certified hotels and restaurants in Manila, the latest being Makati Shangri-La, Manila, but the number is increasing.
Observed Ine Faustino, general manager of CCT 168 Tours: “With the dearth of halal food, some Muslim travellers choose serviced apartments where they can prepare and cook their own food.”
To woo this market, DoT launched Eid Play Love travel packages on July 14 in Saudi Arabia and the UAE for the long holidays after Ramadan this month and the Eid al-Adha in October.
A take on the popular book and movie Eat Pray Love, the packages promote Philippines, heretofore known as labour export market, as a “Muslim- and family-friendly destination”, said Verna Buensuceso, DoT’s overall in charge for market development group.
Partners in the packages will be asked to send reports to DoT to gauge the success of future promotions planned for the Middle East.
The Philippines is still slowly beefing up facilities needed by Muslim travellers. Manila’s airport has a Muslim prayer room and footwash, while hotels such as Fairmont Makati and Raffles Makati include Qurans, prayer spaces, and Arabic-language TV channels.
The underserved Muslim market is estimated to have been worth some US$130 billion in 2013 (TTG Asia e-Daily, November 26, 2013), and the world's first international conference on Muslim tourism will be held this September in Spain, bringing together the global travel industry to share how it can cater to this fast-growing segment (TTG Asia e-Daily, July 1, 2014).