The Department of Tourism is taking measures to promote the adoption of halal-friendly practices in the local tourism sector.
Halal tourism has been identified as one of the key growth areas in the industry during a forum in Davao City last October.
Halal tourism is a subcategory of tourism geared towards tourists and groups abiding by the rules of Islam. More and more countries are trying to attract Muslim tourists from all over the world by offering facilities with their religious beliefs. Hotels in halal destinations do not serve alcohol and have separate swimming pools for men and women. Halal flights do not serve alcohol and pork products and announce prayer times.
An estimated 350,000 visitors from Islamic countries visited the Philippines last year.
To promote halal tourism, the DOT and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos have asked Crescent Rating, a Singapore-based accreditation body to assess the readiness of local establishments to cater to Muslim clients.
According to Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr., the halal issues in the Philippines must be project oriented.
“The impetus in the development of the halal industry should be economic rather than cultural. There should be financial inducements, subsidy with pay-out schemes. This way, we will have no difficulty convincing the other sectors to support our initiatives. As a matter of fact, with this scheme, when they see the opportunities present in this industry, they will readily involve themselves,” Jimenez said.
DOT assistant secretary Arturo Boncato said halal tourism is the “fastest growing tourism segment in the world” with a global market value, based on international estimates, of $145 billion.
The Philippines, however, has yet to begin to take advantage of this opportunity. For example, Muslim visitors get hungry when they come to the Philippines because there are no halal-certified restaurants at the airport, according to Boncato.
Crescent Rating will be using its checklist of indicators to see the level of halal-compliance in certain tourism establishments in the country.
Manila, Makati, Cebu and Davao have been identified as possible pilot areas where halal-certified establishments will be listed by April this year.
NCMF Secretary, Yasmin Busran-Lao said: “It is time that efforts on developing and promoting halal must be seen in tangibles. The many guests coming from the Arab and other Muslim countries who are visiting the country would always look for halal establishments. And it is quite uncomfortable when they can find no halal establishments here for their needs. Despite the large Muslim population there is difficulty in finding halal food and a place to perform Islamic prayers.