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MANILA: A newly acquired award at this year’s World Halal and Travel Summit is expected to further motivate stakeholders in the Philippine industry to cater to visitors from Muslim and Middle Eastern countries, tourism authorities said Saturday.

The Philippines was recognized as an emerging non-OIC Muslim-friendly destination at the Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index Summit in Singapore on May 30.

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

“Recognition by the world’s leading halal travel agency is definitely a great asset for the Philippines,” Tourism Undersecretary Myra Paz Abubakar told Arab News.

“This would certainly encourage our tourism stakeholders, encourage our partners and ensure that the Philippines rises as a preferred destination for Muslims, including those in the Middle East.”

According to her, the award is also a recognition of the country’s efforts to meet the needs of Muslims.

The Philippines also won the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination award at the Halal and Travel Global Summit in 2023, and has since stepped up efforts to attract visitors from the Middle East and neighboring Muslim-majority 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 its population of nearly 120 million, has welcomed more than 2 million international travelers since the start of the year and recorded a 10 percent increase in visitors from Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE. — which are among the Philippine government’s key emerging market targets.

Earlier this month, the Department of Tourism led a delegation to the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, promoting the country’s top destinations, and signed an agreement with one of the Philippines’ largest restaurant chains to convert its properties into Muslim-friendly and halal-friendly establishments.

“As a country known for its warm hospitality, rich cultural heritage and breathtaking natural attractions, meeting the needs of Muslim travelers through the development of halal tourism is vital in ensuring that we increase our competitiveness in the global tourism market,” said Tourism Minister Christina Frasco he said in a statement welcoming the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination award.

“Adapting to the changing needs of Muslim travelers by offering Halal-friendly accommodations, restaurants, prayer spaces and other services not only enhances the overall visitor experience, but also demonstrates our respect for diverse cultural and religious practices.”

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