Philippines sharpens Muslim-friendly features to boost Indonesian arrivals

The Department of Tourism (DoT) Philippines is working towards a target of 100,000 arrivals from Indonesia, up from its 80,000 arrivals pre-pandemic, by highlighting the destination’s Muslim-friendly features.

Visitor arrivals from Indonesia between January and July this year stood at around 38,000.

(Left) VFS Global’s Prashant Kansara and DoT Philippines’ Gwen Batoon are determined to spread love for the Philippines in Indonesia

The DoT was in Jakarta last week to promote its Discover Why It’s More to Love The Philippines campaign at ASTINDO Fair 2023, during which the team met with Indonesian travel agents and the media to provide updates on tourism developments. The activity was led by DoT head of product and market development, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia, Gwen Batoon.

Batoon said the DoT is developing a halal tourism portfolio and has placed it high on the priority list of the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2023-2028.

“To strengthen the development of a Muslim-friendly brand, we are rolling out our Muslim Friendly Standard Guideline that pushes for Muslim-friendly travel and culinary tourism. While the world was sleeping during Covid-19, we developed the operational manual and are now starting the operations and recognition of Muslim-friendly accommodation establishments,” she added.

As of April 2023, the DoT has identified 289 halal-certified or Muslim-friendly accommodation establishments. Funds will be provided to help at least 50 more halal restaurants be accredited, which will expand the current pool of 65 halal-certified and 172 Muslim-friendly certified restaurants across the country.

Indonesians visiting the Philippines will have many new things to enjoy – new hotels, restaurants and shopping facilities are coming up.

However, Batoon acknowledged that the Indonesia strategy is challenged by seat capacity issues. “Flight frequencies (between Indonesia and the Philippines) have not returned to pre-pandemic levels,” she told TTG Asia.

Currently, Philippines Airlines operates 10 flights a week between Manila and Jakarta while Cebu Pacific flies seven times from Manila to Jakarta and 10 times to Bali.

Having said that, Batoon is confident that the 100,000 arrival target can be achieved within two years, especially as the DoT has appointed VFS Global as its new marketing representative for Indonesia, spearheaded by Prashant Kansara, head of operations for Indonesia and Malaysia.

Additionally, the Philippines has launched 10 Tourist Rest Areas across the country, all strategically located between tourist destinations. Along with the new Tourist Lifecycle App, which links tourists to accredited accommodation, food and shopping establishments, these initiatives will make visits to “the Philippine as seamless as possible”, opined Batoon.

She further shared that the Philippines is developing secondary gateways to decongest popular Manila. Clark is one such “important gateway”, she said, adding that Cebu Pacific is operating 13 domestic and international routes from the airport.

“Philippine Airlines has also announced that it will commence flights from Clark to Caticlan,” she said.

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