Philippines boosts efforts to attract Saudi tourists

Philippines boosts efforts to attract Saudi tourists
Philippines boosts efforts to attract Saudi tourists

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - MANILA: The Philippines is boosting efforts to attract Saudi tourists, its chief of mission in Riyadh told Arab News, as the embassy is working on receiving in Manila a delegation of industry players from the Kingdom.

Known for its white sandy beaches, diving spots, and diverse culture, the Philippine economy is dependent on tourism. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, nearly 8.3 million foreigners visited the country and the industry contributed nearly 13 percent, or about $44 billion, to the country’s gross domestic product in 2019.

After global travel came to a halt due to the pandemic, the Philippines focused on its recovery and expanded its goals to position itself as a leading halal tourism destination.

Saudi Arabia became its key target market among Muslim countries.

“We’ve been working (on it) with the Department of Tourism since Secretary Christina Frasco assumed her post. She visited the Kingdom in 2022 and from there, we started working with travel partners here,” Philippine Embassy Charge d’Affaires Rommel Romato told Arab News on Friday.

“We are aiming to invite, organize a delegation to Manila, to the Philippines … This year, hopefully, it will materialize. It will be a combination of tourism and trade industry players from Saudi Arabia.”

There is already awareness of the Philippines in the Kingdom as out of nearly 1.8 million overseas Filipino workers in Gulf countries, more than half live and work in Saudi Arabia, which has for decades been their preferred overseas employment destination.

“They (Saudis) know about the Philippines through our very hard-working OFWs here in the Kingdom, so they want to see more, they want to appreciate more by traveling to the Philippines. Our workers here are admired by their employers. So, they are curious to learn more about the Philippines,” Romato said.

Among the most popular destinations for Saudi travelers is Boracay — an island in the central Philippines that is known for its resorts and beaches — as well as Palawan, a province famous for its crystal-clear waters, limestone cliffs and lush forests.

Sites on the southern island of Mindanao, which is home to the Philippines’ Muslim minority, are also where travelers from the Kingdom would visit.

“Saudis are also interested in Muslim communities, so they want to see Davao, even BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao),” Romato said, adding that the Philippine side now needed to propose potential fields of cooperation, including travel and hospitality-related services such as training tour guides and operators, for which the Philippines is internationally recognized.

“They are really determined to consider partnerships with many countries, especially in Asia,” he said.

“They already know the Philippines through our workers. The Philippines is already in their hearts. We just have to do our part to maximize that potential by inviting them to the Philippines and also by making our tourism destinations responsive to their needs.”

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