Mideast seen as growth market for visitors to Philippines — DoT

THE Department of Tourism (DoT) said it hopes visitor arrivals from the Middle East will grow further in conjunction with efforts to expand the Philippines’ halal offerings and enhance air connectivity with the region.

In a statement on Tuesday, the department said Tourism Secretary Maria Esperanza Christina G. Frasco met with 90 travel industry representatives from the Middle East on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market 2024 event in Dubai on Monday.

Ms. Frasco said that the Philippines and Middle East share common ground in terms of Islamic influences. She added that the Philippines was named an emerging Muslim-friendly destination at the Halal in Travel Awards 2023.

“Since then, we have eyed this niche market by strategically developing our halal tourism portfolio, offering halal-certified dining, increasing halal accreditations, and conducting halal awareness orientations,” she added.

According to Ms. Frasco, international arrivals from the leading source markets in the Middle East have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, with Qatar totals up 547.97% from 2019, and arrivals from the UAE and Kuwait up 419% and 130% from the last full year before international travel restrictions set in.

Ms. Frasco said that the DoT is also working with the private and public sectors to enhance air connectivity.

“Being an archipelagic nation that can only be reached via air, unless you take a cruise, we have worked hard with the Department of Transportation as well as our partners in the private sector to really increase inbound connectivity,” she added.

The DoT said that the Muslim travel market is poised to significantly contribute to the growth of the global tourism industry, with an estimated expenditure of $225 billion by 2028.

Meanwhile, the department said that its marketing and promotions arm, the Tourism Promotions Board, is looking at surpassing 2023 sales leads in this year’s Arabian Travel Market. In 2023, the Philippine delegation booked over P1 billion in leads.

At the opening of the Philippine Pavilion, the DoT signed a memorandum of understanding with Megaworld Hotels and Resorts (MHR) to establish more Muslim-friendly properties.

“We know that we are looking forward to our full support and utmost cooperation and making sure that we attract and also create stronger ties to attract Muslim travelers, which we need so much in our country,” MHR Managing Director Cleofe C. Albiso said. — Justine Irish D. Tabile