For the longest time, I have been hearing suggestions from some of my tour operator friends that we should also give focus on “Halal Tourism.” These hard-working tourism stakeholders have lost to other countries some Muslim groups for the simple reason that we do not have enough Muslim-friendly establishments in the country, meaning, those that cater to the needs of Muslim travelers.
Research shows that we only have 14 halal-certified establishments and 65 restaurants, and they’re mostly in Mindanao, putting us in the 8th spot among the top 20 non-Islamic countries frequently visited by our Muslim brothers. Halal refers to food and non-food products that are permissible under Shari’ah, a body of religious law that forms a part of the Islamic tradition.
According to the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Act of 2009, to be halal-certified, the establishment must offer Halal food prepared from a separate halal kitchen, and should provide a prayer room and a cleansing room which Muslim guests can use before performing the Salah or Muslim prayers. Aside from these requirements, halal-certified hotels should also make available the list and addresses of embassies of Muslim countries, the location of nearby mosques, and the schedule for Salah, among others.
The good news is that The Heritage Hotel Manila (THHM) recently launched its halal buffet at its Café Riviera. The much-anticipated buffet is available every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with the delectable culinary specialties specially prepared from a separate halal kitchen.
Opening day saw a full crowd as this remarkable undertaking finally came to fruition, much to the delight of our Muslim brothers and our industry stakeholders who have exerted so much effort in attracting tour groups from Islamic countries.
I saw my good friend, THHM General Manager Farid Schoucair, grinning from ear to ear as he busied himself greeting guests. It really is something to be very happy about because the hotel is currently the only accommodation enterprise in Metro Manila with a restaurant that serves halal food.
In fact, I know that my tour operator friends have already made it a point to sample the delectable buffet so that they could offer it to their clients abroad who have been hankering for good halal food in the metro. Congratulations to The Heritage Hotel Manila for having joined our industry’s efforts to show some focus on halal tourism and be able to compete with our neighboring countries in luring our Muslim brothers abroad to enjoy what our country has to offer.
THHM director of sales Onelle Pacheco Verzosa sees the business potential in being the only hotel initiating marketing efforts in promoting halal tourism.
Offering this halal buffet is certainly a big step towards that. As to the hotel’s next step, I am eagerly anticipating it with bated breath. Meantime, I happily proclaim “Hail, hail, halal, at the Heritage Hotel.”
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