The Philippines is one of the popular destinations for tourists not only in Asia but the rest of the world – boasting of its Idyllic beaches, iconic landmarks, breath-taking sceneries, diverse flora and fauna, uniquely delectable dishes, and of course, the warmth and hospitality of its people.
History has taught us that long before the Spanish colonization, the Philippines has been host to foreign visitors. Though trading and commerce remains the main reason for their travel, they have also witnessed and experienced what our country has to offer.
Some sailing merchants from China, India, and Malaysia have even settled here resulting in packets of migrant communities.
The Philippines Statistics Authority in their June 18, 2020 report indicates that from 2018 to 2020, Philippine tourism has contributed 7.4% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) with the first two years posting similar annual GDP shares of 12.7% before the pandemic slowed things down.
Years prior to 2017, tourism has only posted a single-digit share to the nation’s coffer. All until the government has seen the potential contribution of Philippine tourism in our economy. Indeed, the significant growth can be attributed to the aggressive government tourism projects which includes the promotion of Halal tourism.
The idea of promoting Halal tourism was based on the data released on February 2016 by the Department of Tourism (DoT) that shows the country welcoming in 2015 5.4m visitors where approximately 566,000 visitors – or 10.5% of arrivals – are from countries with a significant Muslim population.
In early 2016, it can be remembered that the Department of Tourism had announced plans of teaming up with CrescentRating, an international Halal tourism authority, to promote the segment’s expansion. CrescentRating has been expected to help the country identify gaps in facilities and services, and create a marketing campaign targeting Muslim travellers with its initial focus in Manila, Davao, Cebu and Boracay areas.
Fast forward to 2019, DOT Undersecretary for Tourism Development Planning, Benito C. Bengzon Jr., in an interview, has revealed the government’s Halal Tourism Roadmap that pushes efforts to promote Muslim-friendly tourism in the country by evaluating implemented halal programs, and building on previous initiatives for the halal tourism development in proposed pilot areas.
Other important aspects USec. Bengzon had mentioned the involvement of tourism establishments in pursuing Halal certification and the Halal Tourism Consultation Workshop.
And though the realization of the Halal Tourism Roadmap has taken a setback due to the pandemic, it still remains one of the department’s priorities.
Now that the vaccine for the virus is available, it is expected that most, if not all, businesses will return to normal. And though a new normal will be enforced, the important thing is that stalled plans may soon be restarted which hopefully includes the strengthening of the local Halal tourism.
After all, Halal tourism is still a highly lucrative segment of the global industry with, according to the 2019 Thomson Reuters projection, is worth 238 billion USD. And with the Philippines being one of the top non-IOC tourist destinations in the world, the country can expect a better slice of the pie.