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Philippines targets Middle Eastern visitors with wellness and medical tourism

Philippines targets Middle Eastern visitors with wellness and medical tourism

Philippines targets Middle Eastern visitors with wellness and medical tourism

Philippines targets Middle Eastern visitors with wellness and medical tourism

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  • Over 2 million international travelers have visited the Philippines since the start of the year.
  • The Department of Tourism reported a 120 percent recovery rate from the same period in 2019 before COVID-19.
  • The tourism sector is leveraging Arabic-speaking talent to assist in facilitating tours for Middle Eastern travelers.
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The Philippine tourism sector is transitioning to promote the country as a medical and wellness destination, broadening its appeal beyond its recreational profile to draw more visitors from the Middle East. The Department of Tourism reported last week that over 2 million international travelers have visited the Philippines since the beginning of the year, with receipts totaling $2.7 billion between January and April. This data reflects a 120 percent recovery rate from the same period in 2019 before COVID-19 lockdowns halted the industry.

The department’s data additionally indicated a 10 percent increase in visitors arriving from Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both of which are among the Philippine government’s key emerging-market targets

To further enhance their arrivals and increase the country’s attractiveness as a destination, tourism stakeholders are adjusting their strategy to place more emphasis on the wellness sector, stated Arjun Shroff, President of the Philippine Tour Operators Association, in an interview with the news.

“This strategic shift aims to position the Philippines as an emerging medical and wellness destination in Asia, expanding beyond its traditional recreational tourism offerings like beaches and diving spots,” he said.

The predominantly Catholic Philippines, where Muslims make up about 10 percent of the nearly 120 million population, is undertaking efforts to expand the footprint of halal services and goods. The country plans to raise 230 billion pesos ($4 billion) in investments and create approximately 120,000 jobs by expanding its domestic halal industry by 2028.

The cross-sector efforts also encompass tourism, with the Philippines striving to position itself as a leading halal tourism destination.

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“We have recently implemented a range of strategic initiatives to enhance our appeal to visitors from the Middle East. Central to our approach is a commitment to inclusivity, ensuring that all tourists feel welcome and safe,” Shroff said.

“In line with this commitment, we have actively promoted halal establishments to cater to the dietary preferences of Middle Eastern travelers. By offering a variety of halal dining options, we aim to provide a seamless and enjoyable culinary experience.”

Filipinos, particularly those in the Middle East, especially Gulf countries, which host around 2 million Philippine expatriates, have gained exposure. They comprehend cultural differences, and many are proficient in Arabic.

Lately, the tourism sector has been leveraging Arabic-speaking talent to assist in facilitating tours for Middle Eastern travelers.

“We have invested in bilingual tour guides proficient in Arabic … These guides play a vital role in facilitating communication, providing valuable insights, and enhancing the overall experience for our Middle Eastern guests,” Shroff said.

“Philippine travel and tourism agencies strategically target the Middle East market … (it) holds great potential for the Philippines.”

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