Department of Tourism 8 holds a Muslim-friendly tourism orientation as Eastern Visayas gears up to become a Muslim-friendly destination (Roel T Amazona)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Department of Tourism (DOT) gathered some of the region’s tourism stakeholders and tourism officers for the very first Muslim Friendly Tourism Orientation held on Tuesday (March 5).

This is the first time the region conducted an orientation as Eastern Visayas gears up as a Muslim-friendly tourist destination in the country.

Karina Rosa Tiopes, tourism regional director, said that the orientation is needed because none of the tourism enterprises in the region are certified as Muslim-friendly.

“Just like us, our Muslim brothers and sisters also go on vacation and this needs to be given importance because they too have their own traditions and culture that they need to follow and for us to respect,” she said during an interview after the launching held at the Oriental Hotel in Palo town.

Their office, Tiopes said, has no data yet on how many Muslim tourists visited the region in the previous years.

“Through this orientation, this will tell us what our Muslim tourists are looking for and what they can do, what is halal or permitted to them and what is haram or those that are not allowed,” she said.

Tiopes added that the orientation is important for major cities and towns in Eastern Visayas positioned by the DOT as MICE (meeting, incentives, conferences, and events) destinations because there is a high chance that there will be Muslim participants in these activities, especially if it is a national event.

Joining the Muslim Friendly Tourism Orientation was Undersecretary Myra Paz Valderrosa Abubakar who said that it is crucial that the accommodation establishments and tourism facilities adequately cater to the needs of Muslim travelers such as food and accommodations.

“Embracing Muslim-friendly practices ensures that we create an environment where all travelers, regardless of their cultural or religious background, feel welcome and accommodated,” she said.

“This not only promotes diversity but also enhances the overall tourism experience for everyone involved,” Abubakar added.

In 2023, the country welcomed more than 6,500 Muslim travelers who mostly visited the Mindanao region.

The country was also awarded last year as the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination of the Year at the prestigious Halal in Travel Global Summit which recognizes destinations, organizations, companies, and individuals who have made a significant impact on the Muslim lifestyle travel segment.

The topics discussed during the orientation include the fundamentals of halal, halal certification technicalities, kitchen products, and available DOST training on halal, and the DOT Memorandum Circular No. 2020 -010.

The said memorandum sets the guidelines governing the operation and recognition of Muslim-friendly accommodation establishments as it mandates that those who will apply for a certificate of recognition must have in their front desk information on Muslim-friendly rooms, facilities, and amenities, a list of nearby mosques or Islamic centers, information on prayer times or call of prayer, and adequate information on the nearest halal-certified restaurants or Muslim-friendly restaurants.

Muslim-friendly accommodation facilities must also assign at least five percent of the total number of their room as Muslim-friendly guest rooms and inside the room must have Qiblah directional stickers pointing its director to Mecca, a prayer mat, Qur’an, and a clear water supply.

There should be a separate area for the preparation of halal food, including different sets of silverware, plates, and glass wares; separate cold storage with proper signage for halal and non-halal food, designate a purchasing individual for halal food ingredients, standard operating procedure for kitchen operation, and sanitation and proper handling of halal food and products. (ROEL T. AMAZONA)