DAVAO CITY — The Department of Tourism (DoT) has solicited the services of a Singapore-based accreditation body to look into the readiness of Philippine establishments for halal tourism.

Crescent Rating, which provides various services related to halal-friendly travel including a globally recognized rating standard, will undertake the initial assessment this year for free.

“(Crescent Rating) will do it free of charge,” said DoT Assistant Secretary Arturo P. Boncato, Jr.

The invitation to Crescent Rating for assistance is part of the partnership between the DoT and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) that was initiated in August to address issues related to the development of the halal industry in the Philippines, particularly where it intersects with tourism.

During the initial DoT-NCMF meeting, Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. proposed that halal issues in the Philippines “should not be tackled as a principle but must be project-oriented.”

“The impetus in the development of the halal industry should be economic rather than cultural. There should be financial inducements, subsidy with pay-out schemes. This way, we will have no difficulty convincing the other sectors to support our initiatives. As a matter of fact, with this scheme, when they see the opportunities present in this industry, they will readily involve themselves,” Mr. Jimenez said as quoted by the NCMF.

Mr. Boncato said halal tourism is the “fastest growing tourism segment in the world” with a global market value, based on international estimates, of $145 billion.

“The Philippines, however, is not even on the radar,” Mr. Boncato told BusinessWorld.

“Our visitors from the Middle East, from ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and from all over the world who embrace the Islamic faith get hungry when they come (to the Philippines) because there are even no halal-certified restaurants at the airports,” he added.

Mr. Boncato said Crescent Rating will be using its checklist of indicators to see the level of halal-compliance in certain tourism establishments in the country.

Under the DoT-NCMF project, the cities of Manila, Makati, Cebu and Davao have been identified as possible pilot areas where halal-certified establishments will be listed by April this year.

NCMF Secretary, Yasmin Busran-Lao said: “It is time that efforts on developing and promoting halal must be seen in tangibles. The many guests coming from the Arab and other Muslim countries who are visiting the country would always look for halal establishments. And it is quite uncomfortable when they can find no halal establishments here for their needs. Despite the large Muslim population there is difficulty in finding halal food and a place to perform Islamic prayers.”

At a conference held in Davao City in October last year, tourism industry stakeholders identified halal tourism as one of the key growth areas.

An estimated 350,000 visitors from Islamic countries visited the Philippines last year.