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MANILA: A newly won award at this year’s Halal in Travel Global Summit is expected to further motivate Philippine industry stakeholders to prepare for visitors from Muslim and Middle Eastern countries, tourism authorities said on Saturday.

The Philippines was recognized as an emerging Muslim-friendly destination outside the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation at the Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index Summit in Singapore on May 30.

The index is an annual report that benchmarks travel destinations in the Muslim travel market.

“The recognition by the world’s leading halal travel authority is definitely a great blessing for the Philippines,” Tourism Undersecretary Myra Paz Abubakar told Arab News.

“It would definitely give new impetus to our tourism stakeholders, provide incentives to our partners and ensure that the Philippines becomes a preferred destination for Muslims, including those in the Middle East.”

The award is also a recognition of the country’s efforts to respond to the needs of Muslims, she said.

In 2023, the Philippines also won the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination award at the Halal in Travel Global Summit and has since stepped up its efforts to attract visitors from the Middle East and neighboring Muslim-majority countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, particularly by ensuring that Muslim tourists have access to halal products and services.

The predominantly Catholic country – where Muslims make up about 10 percent of the nearly 120 million population – has welcomed more than two million international travelers since the beginning of the year and recorded a ten percent increase in visitors from Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are among the Philippine government’s most important target markets.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Tourism led a delegation to the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, where it promoted the country’s best destinations and signed an agreement with one of the Philippines’ largest hotel chains to convert its properties into Muslim- and halal-friendly establishments.

“As a country known for its warm hospitality, rich cultural heritage and stunning natural attractions, meeting the needs of Muslim travelers through the development of halal tourism is vital to ensure that we increase our competitiveness in the global tourism market,” said Tourism Minister Christina Frasco in a statement welcoming the designation as an emerging Muslim-friendly destination.

“By adapting to the changing needs of Muslim travelers and offering halal-friendly accommodations, dining options, prayer rooms and other services, we not only enhance the overall visitor experience, but also demonstrate our respect for diverse cultural and religious practices.”

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