Manila targets larger slice of global halal tourism market

Updated 11 June 2016

Manila targets larger slice of global halal tourism market

The Philippine halal tourism project has become a lynchpin of the country’s travel industry as it has been drawing numerous visitors from the Gulf and other Middle East countries.
“Less than a year ago today, we decided to stop talking about halal and start doing something about it,” Philippine Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said.
He made the statement during the project’s inauguration at the Madrid Fusion Manila 2016 at SMX Convention Center in Pasay City on April 7.
In less than 100 days, the Department of Tourism (DOT) has worked with the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (MCMF), Halal International Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Philippines, Inc. (HICCIP), and CrescentRating to prepare the kitchens and facilities of 43 hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other tourism-related establishments in various parts of the country.
“The best and most important welcome to the visitors is with food. And if you are not halal, then there is a very important segment of society in the world that you are not extending a proper welcome to,” Jimenez said. The DOT has set its sights on seeking a larger slice of the global halal tourism market.
Citing a recent Crescent Rating data that sees the 117 million Muslim travelers rise to 168 million by 2020, Jimenez said, adding that Philippines is one of the countries in Southeast Asia that is determined to partake 20 to 25 percent of the $ 200 billion global halal market.
“The market is already there, with arrivals from Malaysia, for one, growing at double-digit rate. The only thing that is wanting is capacity,” he added.
National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Secretary Yasmin Lao lauded the DOT’s commitment to advancing the halal industry, citing that Jimenez has once again shown political will in efficiently implementing the halal tourism project in less than 100 days.
“I strongly believe that the halal tourism project will lead toward a way Muslim Filipinos feel that they are so very much part of this country,” Jimenez said.
The project follows a 100-day timetable for kitchens of 50 hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other tourism-related establishments to be halal-certified initially in Manila, Boracay and Davao.
As the project rolled out, it expanded to Bohol and other major destinations in Mindanao such as Zamboanga City, General Santos City, Koronadal, Cotabato City, Surigao City and Siargao Island.
The country’s official certifier is the Halal International Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Philippines (HICCIP) that is accredited by the NCMF.
Its partner in global promotion is Crescent Rating that produces the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) together with Mastercard that ranks over 100 countries according to being a Muslim friendly.
The Philippine halal tourism project launch marks the 98th day of the 100-day timetable set for this project.
The project aims to publicly announce a milestone set for this project.

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 31 min 52 sec ago

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

• Download our free #SaudiWomenCanDrive mobile phone background designed by renowned artist Malika Favre: