Philippines push ‘halal tourism’ to attract Middle East visitors

Philippines push ‘halal tourism’ to attract Middle East visitors

April 26, 2009, 6:40pm

the spirit of President Arroyo’s Memorandum Order No. 201 to upgrade
the country’s halal industry, the Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA) headed
by Executive Director Datu Ali B. Sangki and the Department of Tourism
(DoT) have joined hands in promoting “halal tourism” to attract Muslim
visitors from the Middle East and other countries.

This developed as many Arab and Muslim tourists have been avoiding
the United States and members of the European Union because of
stereo-typing and profiling arising from the terrorist attacks on Sept.
11, 2001 against America.

As a result Muslim travelers, particularly from the Middle East,
have made Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei their preferred destinations,
where there are also easily available Muslim-friendly food (halal) and
hotel facilities (with a copy of the Holy Qur’an and Makkah-prayer
direction in each room).

Singapore and Thailand have also been cashing-in on the petro-dollar tourists from the Middle East.

the other hand, the Philippines, because of lack of credible halal
industry and insensitivity of hotels to the needs of Muslims, has yet
to really gain from the influx of Middle East visitors.

DoT Director for Special Projects Shahlimar Tamano and OMA Director
for External Relations Datu Tahir Lidasan Jr. said this is one of the
reasons their two offices have joined hands to promote halal-tourism.

“The project was initiated by the office of Director Shahlimar
Tamano of the Special Projects of DoT and OMA is supporting the
initiative,” Lidasan said. Also the current OMA officer-in-charge
because of Sangki’s trip to Saudi Arabia to make arrangements for the
hajj and also halal-related concerns, Lidasan lauded the overwhelming
response of the hotel and restaurant industry to promote the
Philippines as a halal-sensitive country.

This was shown when the DoT and OMA conducted a public forum on
“Halal Accreditation and Advocacy” at the DoT Auditorium last April 23.
Representatives of hotel establishments and restaurants, as well as
halal culinary arts students from Most Institute led by Chef Abdulatif
“Tato” Sangcupan joined the forum.