Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo / Special to the BusinessMirror
THE Philippines stepped up to seventh place as an attractive destination for Muslim travelers, tying with other non-members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (non-OIC) like Germany, South Africa and Spain.
The country’s ranking was included in the Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2023, and showed an improvement from the eighth place it received in 2021 and 2022. Singapore once more topped the list of non-OIC destinations. CrescentRating is the world’s leading authority on halal-friendly travel.
In the global ranking of 138 countries, the Philippines ranked number 36, an improvement by one place, with an overall performance score of 46 on access, communications, environment, and service. Indonesia regained its first-place ranking, which it lost after 2019. For this year’s GMTI, as in 2022, Ukraine and Russia were not included due to their ongoing war.
According to the GMTI performance matrix (GPM), the Philippines scored very high at 100 on Faith Restrictions, i.e., it has little or no restrictions on Muslims practicing their faith; visa requirements (85); and general safety (77). The country, however, scored very poorly on visitor arrivals (4), heritage attractions (10), and connectivity (20).
230-M Muslim travelers
There were 110 million Muslim international arrivals in 2022, just 68 percent of the 2019 pre-pandemic levels. “This indicates a strong rebound and shows the willingness and ability of Muslim travelers to resume international travel as conditions permit,” said the GMTI report. This year, arrivals are projected to rise to 140 million, with a full recovery seen in 2024 at 160 million, matching 2019 levels.
“Looking further into the future, the outlook remains positive. By 2028, the Muslim travel market is projected to reach unprecedented heights, with Muslim arrivals expected to hit 230 million. This represents a significant increase from the 2019 levels, indicating that the growth of the Muslim travel market is not just a recovery but an expansion,” the report added. “Moreover, the expenditure by Muslim travelers is projected to be US$225 billion by 2028. This underlines the economic significance of this market segment and its potential to contribute to the global travel industry’s recovery and growth.”
The Department of Tourism (DOT), as far back as 2016, recognized the importance of Muslim travelers, launching a marketing strategy to improve visitor arrivals, which included certifying halal restaurants in the country. (See, “DOT launches halal marketing strategy to boost arrivals,” in the BusinessMirror, April 7, 2016.)
Emerging destination award
This, including marketing efforts by succeeding administrations, have finally earned the Philippines an award as the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination of the Year at the Halal in Travel Global Summit 2023 on June 1 in Singapore.
In a news statement, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco said, “This award is an affirmation of our collaborative efforts towards positioning the Philippines as a preferred destination for Muslim travelers, and strategically developing our Halal Tourism portfolio across our regions. This global recognition also opens up enormous opportunities for our country to introduce our rich and diverse culture and heritage evident in our Muslim communities, and our immensely beautiful destinations, including Mindanao.”
She noted that DOT continues to focus on developing the Philippines’s halal tourism portfolio, including it as a priority in the just-approved National Tourism Development Plan for 2023-2028.
ForwardKeys, which tracks global flight bookings, showed a decrease in Ramadan travel bookings to the Philippines this year, but pricier travel choices. (See, “Ramadan travelers to Philippines choose premium airline cabins,” in the BusinessMirror, April 19, 2023.)