PHL among the top 10 non-OIC destinations for Muslim travelers

THE Philippines rose a notch higher in the list of favored leisure destinations by Muslim tourists, outside of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC).

In this year’s MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI), the Philippines is now ranked no. 8 among the top 20 non-OIC leisure destinations, up from no. 9 in 2019. Singapore continues topping the list since the GMTI was launched in 2015. The Philippines is tied with France, Germany, and the United States.

The GMTI in 2021 ranked 140 destinations around the world, accounting for 95 percent of Muslim visitor arrivals. The Philippines remains at no. 36 in terms of global destinations for Muslim travelers, with an average score of 46 across factors like access, communication, environment, and services. Malaysia once more topped the list of Muslim-friendly destinations with a GMTI score of 80.

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This year’s index gives the largest weight to services (40 percent) including halal food and prayer facilities as well as airport and accommodations; and to the environment (30 percent) such as safety, faith restrictions, visitor arrivals, and enabling climate. The visa requirement metric was not included this year.

Fazal Bahardeen, founder and CEO of the CrescentRating said in the report’s foreword: “The pandemic has had a colossal impact on the travel sector. Muslim arrivals dropped to 42 million in 2020 from an all-time high of an estimated 160 million in 2019. As we start this recovery journey, we project that the Muslim travel market will return to the 2019 levels by 2023.”

Halal food is a must

The report noted the Philippines as among the countries that have published  Muslim Visitor Guides in the last few years, which “not only inspire Muslim travelers for travel beyond the pandemic but also enable them to search for the relevant services with ease.”

But the key in attracting Muslim visitors, the report stressed, was the availability of halal food in a destination. A market study by Nielsen Research for the Department of Tourism (DOT) in 2015, found the absence of halal food among the “pain points” of tourists from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia.

This drove the DOT in 2016 to launch a halal marketing strategy in a bid to increase arrivals from Islamic countries, which included the certification of halal restaurants. It tied up with CrescentRating, the world’s leading authority on halal-friendly travel, to help rate local halal restaurants.

The DOT has yet to complete its Halal Tourism Roadmap, but this is considered a key program under its reformulated National Tourism Development Plan for 2021-2022. In July, it launched a Halal Culinary Tourism series to showcase unique dishes and tasty delicacies in Mindanao, as well as the island’s growing list of halal-certified restaurants. The video series is available on DOT’s social-media platforms.

In 2019, before the pandemic, tourist arrivals from the Middle East dipped by 10.4 percent to 73,703. This was a slight improvement from the 11.34-percent decline to 82,251 in 2018, ostensibly due to a region-wide silent recession. The bulk of the Middle Eastern tourists in 2019 were from Saudi Arabia (43,748) and the United Arab Emirates (10,192), which both recorded declines by  6.85 percent and 33.83 percent, respectively.

Courtesy: Business Mirror

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