DOT-11 eyes direct flights from Davao to ME

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/08 May) – The Department of Tourism (DOT) in Region 11 on Monday said Davao City is ready to host direct flights to and from the Middle East due to Mindanao’s thriving halal industry and other things that Muslim visitors would need.

“All over the Philippines, Mindanao is the only region ready for Middle Eastern market because we have the halal, we have the mosques. Everything that they need for their practice of Islam we have it already here in Mindanao,” DOT-11 director Roberto Alabado III told reporters in an interview.

Alabado said Muslims in Mindanao alone need a direct flight for their yearly month-long pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to become a hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam. The other four pillars are declaration of faith, obligatory faith, compulsory giving, and fasting in the month of Ramadan.

“We are hoping the private sector airlines will push through with the plans. The air industry is always private sector. The government is more on the regulation only,” he said.

He said even weekly flights would already do.

He said the tourism agency can sell Mindanao’s ecotourism destinations, in particular the “beach, culture, and food”.

“If we are going to focus on natural resources, it’s going to be ecotourism. In Middle East, what they have there are deserts and oases. Here, we have the jungles. So, it’s a different experience for them. We would like to encourage them to come here but at the same time, there is a requirement – that requirement is halal. I think Mindanao and Davao are very much ready for this because we have already restaurants, halal hotel. We can accommodate them if they come here,” he said.

Middle East comprises Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Alabado noted that only a few Middle Easterners visit the city. “Very negligible,” he said.

He urged the private sector to invest more on hotels to be more prepared if the number of visitors here would pick up.

He said more tourism infrastructure projects like roads and bridges, and improved transport systems are needed for a more seamless mobility.

In Davao City, tourist arrivals surged to 459,104 in the first quarter of 2017, higher by 13 percent compared to 405,576 tourists during the same period last year, records from the City Tourism Office showed.

It added that bulk of the visitors were domestic at 423,714, followed by foreign visitors at 29,889, and “balikbayans” at 5,501. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)