MANILA: Miss Universes from Bahrain and Pakistan have joined a campaign to promote halal travel in the Philippines, as Manila seeks to attract more visitors from the Middle East and Muslim-majority countries to meet its tourism goals this year.
The Philippines’ economy is dependent on tourism, which in 2019 generated about $50 billion, contributing nearly 13 percent of the country’s GDP. But that share fell to about 5 percent in 2020 and 2021, when the global travel industry ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With Manila positioning itself as a Muslim-friendly destination as part of a strategy to revive the tourism sector, the Miss Universes from Bahrain and Pakistan are part of the latest move to support the promotion of halal tourism in the Philippines.
“The Department of Tourism is taking advantage of the presence of the Miss Universes from Bahrain and Pakistan to help and assist promote Muslim-friendly and halal tourism in the Philippines,” Tourism Undersecretary Myra Paz Valderrosa-Abubakar told Arab News on Sunday.
Abubakar said that the Miss Universes’ trip to the Philippines would be a “big boost” for the country that would hopefully influence the global Muslim community to visit the archipelago nation, which is home to white sand beaches, famous diving spots, lively entertainment, diverse cultural heritage and distinctive wildlife.
With the Muslim travel market forecast to reach $225 billion value by 2028, the Philippines’ government announced in 2022 that boosting foreign arrivals from the Middle East and Muslim-majority nations was among its priority goals. The Philippines is well on its way to meeting its target of welcoming 4.8 million foreign arrivals this year and has already received more than 4 million visitors so far, official data showed.
Earlier this year, the Philippines won the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination of the Year award during the Halal in Travel Global Summit, a recognition of its efforts to attract global Muslim travelers.
That effort continues with the latest collaboration between the Department of Tourism and The Farm resort and Xpedition Middle East magazine, which seeks to promote halal and wellness tourism in the Philippines.
Miss Universe Bahrain, Lujane Yacoub, and Miss Universe Pakistan, Erica Robin, arrived in Manila on Friday and will be in the country as part of their training for Miss Universe 2023 in El Salvador in November.
While the two women are in the Philippines, they are set to show the beauty of the country to the global Muslim community.
“What the Philippines already has is this amazing diversity in wanting to welcome in many different places and even Muslim countries. It’s just an amazing place to be,” Yacoub said during a press conference on Saturday.
“I encourage anyone from Bahrain to come and visit the Philippines. It is gorgeous with its beaches and its diving spots, and its rich, rich culture. The Philippines has amazing hospitality and it’s so welcoming.”
Robin said that it was a privilege to help promote the Philippines.
“It’s been just less than 24 hours and the Philippines already feels like home … And we still have … a lot to explore, a lot to learn, a lot to share with the world what the Philippines has to offer,” she said.
“I feel so honored and blessed to promote something that needs to be out for people to know. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to show the brighter side of your country that I’m sure every Muslim country would love to know.”