Home /

News and Updates


Dubai, UAE –  Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco on Monday (May 6) engaged in a listening session with tourism players from the Middle East, with the objective of further unlocking the potentials of the Philippines as a preferred destination for the Middle East market.

On the sidelines of the opening day of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2024, Secretary Frasco met with some 90 travel and tourism stakeholders from the Middle East, and thanked them for their continued support to Philippine tourism, evinced by the promising results of the country’s participation to the ATM last year.

“Coming on the heels of the very successful recently held Mindanao Expo, a flagship program of the Marcos administration that recognizes the potential of Muslim and halal tourism in Mindanao, we find ourselves here in the Middle East where we certainly share many commonalities in our culture, history. Needless to say, the Philippines and Middle Eastern countries share a multitude of cultural, historical, and religious commonalities that have shaped our nations. One prominent one is our rich Islamic heritage that evinces a deep influence that Islam has had, particularly in the southern regions of the country. The Islamic influence connects the Philippines to the broader Islamic world, including the Middle East, fostering a shared appreciation for Islamic traditions, architecture and cultural customs,” Secretary Frasco said.

The tourism chief gave an overview of the Philippine government’s tourism strategies and direction under the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., particularly in reinforcing the country’s position as an emerging muslim-friendly destination, a citation it earned during the Halal in Travel Global Summit 2023.

“Since then, we have eyed this niche market by strategically developing our Halal Tourism portfolio, offering Halal-certified dining, increasing halal accreditations, and conducting Halal awareness orientations,” the DOT chief shared.

Secretary Frasco also bared promising updates in terms of the recovery of international arrivals from the Middle East into the Philippines, noting that 2023 arrivals from UAE (419% recovery from 2019), Qatar (547,97%) and Kuwait (130%), recovered more than 100% of pre pandemic levels in 2019.

In addition to enhancing the country’s halal- and muslim-friendly tourism standards, ensuring a strong presence in the Middle East market through participation in key travel and trade events abroad, and carrying out other strategies under the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2023-2028 approved by the President, Secretary Frasco noted that the DOT is actively working with its private and public sector partners in addressing developmental factors to tourism development, including enhancing air connectivity into the country.

“Being an archipelagic nation that can only be reached via air connectivity unless you take a cruise, we have worked hard with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) as well as our partners in the private sector to really increase connectivity into the country,” the DOT chief said, noting that there are already over one million seats from the region coming into the Philippines in 2023.

The Muslim travel market is poised to significantly contribute to the growth of the global tourism industry, with arrivals expected to reach 140 million by the end of 2023 and an estimated expenditure of USD 225 billion by 2028.

Middle East travel and tourism stakeholders expressed their appreciation to the DOT chief for the initiative.

“On behalf of the GCC travel agents, I would like to say thank you so much for such a detailed presentation here. I think this is the right time for you to be here because not only we welcome you here for this gathering, but we welcome you to the UAE, especially to the beautiful event of Arabian Travel Market,” Al Naboodah Travels CEO Mr. Nasir Jamal Khan said.

“What was said by you, the Philippine Tourism Minister Christina, that Qatar today has entered to be one of the major [partnership] to develop tourism, has made me proud of my country because we love the Philippines. Qatar is a major partner and we are very happy that Manila, as one of my colleagues said– is one of the best destination for muslim tourism, halal tourism. I will share about the quality of the manpower of employees from the Philippines. We are proud and my travel agent that 40% of my manpower are from the Philippines. We love the Philippines,” General Manager and Expert of Travel & Tourism of Falcon Travels Mr. Ayman Al Qudwa enthused.


The Philippines makes mark at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2024

Secretary Frasco led the opening of the  Philippine Pavillion at the ATM 2024 at the Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC), where she underscored the significance of the country’s participation at the event.

“I’m so happy to join all of you today at the Arabian Travel Market where the Philippines will make its mark as the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination for 2023, and hopefully we would be able to defend that very same title especially considering all the strides that have been made by our government to prioritize Muslim travelers from this region coming into our country,” Secretary Frasco said.

Last year, the Philippine delegation to ATM 2024 generated over a Php 1 billion in sales leads. This year, the DOT and its marketing and promotions arm, the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Philippines hope to exceed this number.

Secretary Frasco attributed the successful ATM participation of the country last year to the hardwork of the tourism stakeholders, particularly the tireless sellers who serve as “frontliners” of Philippine tourism.

Highlighting the opening of the Philippine Pavilion at the ATM 2024 is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) led by Secretary Frasco and Megaworld Hotels and Resorts (MHR) Managing Director Cleofe C. Albiso to establish more Muslim- friendly properties in the Philippines.

“Through the signing of this memorandum of agreement all of the MegaWorld properties commit their properties to be Halal- and Muslim-friendly properties and, in addition to that, they will be our partners in furthering our country brand, Love the Philippines as well as to ensure the Filipinization of resort properties all over the country,” Secretary Frasco said.

“We know that we are looking forward to our full support and utmost cooperation and making sure that we attract and also create stronger ties in attracting our Muslim brothers and sisters, which we need so much in our country. So, I hope that this MOU is just the start, and we also entice many of our stakeholders to do the same. Secretary, you have our full commitment, and we look forward to enliven this partnership,” Albiso replied.

Under the MOU, the DOT will engage MHR as a strategic partner in carrying out initiatives, from country branding, manpower training, product development, and related programs including the 2025 National Accommodation Standards, Halal and Muslim-friendly Tourism Standards and Guidelines, Balik Bayani sa Turismo, Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA)-accredited Merchant, and the Filipino Brand of Wellness.

Also present at the MOU Signing were Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Arab Emirates Alfonso Ferdinand A. Ver, Philippine Consulate General in Dubai Consul General Marford M. Angeles, TPB Philippines Chief Operating Officer Maria Margarita Nograles, Undersecretary Myra Paz Valderrosa-Abubakar, OIC-Undersecretary Verna Buensuceso, Assistant Secretary Maria Rica Bueno, and MHR Head of Hotel Sales and Strategic Partnership Claire D. Bernabe.



Guests and stakeholders visit the Philippine pavilion to inquire about services and other travel-related concerns during the Arabian Travel Market 2024 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco on Monday (May 6) delivered her message before the Philippine delegation during the opening of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2024 at the Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC).

Department of Tourism (DOT) officials and stakeholders gather for a photo opportunity at the Philippine Pavilion during the Arabian Travel Market 2024 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Department of Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco and Megaworld Hotels & Resorts (MHR) Managing Director Cleofe C. Albiso lead the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish more Muslim-friendly properties in the Philippines on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2024 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Department of Tourism (DOT) officials together with travel and tourism stakeholders from the Middle East during a listening tour on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market 2024 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Published:May 7, 2024

Recent News