Armed with a slew of new branding initiatives and aggressive promotional projects aimed at revitalizing the travel and hospitality industries, the country’s tourism sector is determined to build back better this year.
Tapping all possible platforms in the virtual space has been the rallying call of the Department of Tourism (DOT) since the pandemic struck, allowing the sector’s stakeholders to pivot to smart tourism.
“Our adoption of digital technologies and smart ICT platforms was key to be able to explore new ways of marketing and promotions,” said Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) chief operating officer Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones.
TPB is an attached agency of the DOT tasked to design and roll-out programs that will promote Philippine tourism to the world.
In November 2020, it has launched the Travel Philippines app which became the official hub for information providing tourists with updates on what destinations are open and what protocols and requirements are in place.
The long lockdowns prompted the DOT, in cooperation with the tourism stakeholders, to dabble in virtual tours production, intended for avid travelers who are still homebound to lessen boredom and ease anxiety for people who have limited or no mobility at all.
The virtual tours created a safe space of leisure for virtual travelers across the nation and across the globe. These featured Camiguin, Davao, La Union and Manila, among other key destinations.
Despite the pandemic, the TPB noted an increase in its members that has grown to over 500 stakeholders – from resorts to support tourism groups.
Allones likewise noted the rise of many tourism-related micro, small and medium enterprises, all geared to face the challenges of the new normal.
“TPB Intends to sustain all partnerships from national to local governments, stakeholders, the academe, tourism support groups like transportation tricycle associations, tour operators and other support groups. We engage them, whether big or small. And we continue to roll out projects that will not only revive the tourism sector but will continue to support small stakeholders’ businesses,” Allones said.
The agency has actively sought collaboration with transportation groups, strengthening an integrated approach to safe and gratifying travels with the launch of the Philippine Motor Tourism. The project was conceptualized in partnership with H.O.G., Adventure Philippines, and Breakfast Ride Community, among others.
Also supporting the TPB’s motorcycle tourism is the Wayfinder Project, which was recently piloted in Intramuros and for the Mt. Pinatubo trek.
Using wayfinder science, TPB plans to replicate this program in priority destinations within the year. For the Visayas, TPB is eyeing to include Cebu and Bohol in the Wayfinder project and Regions 9, 10 and 12 in Mindanao.
The tourist concierge program is another project the TPB plans to immediately unveil with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) as the country reopens its borders to international travelers. Concierge stations will be set up in major tourism destinations where all the information on Philippine travel will be available.
The TPB and DOT will also sustain three banner programs launched in 2021 – the Halal Culinary Tourism, Habi and Hilom. Halal Tourism will cover not only culinary delights but all halal products. Habi, the vernacular for weaving, focuses on the country’s strength as having some of the world’s most prolific weavers, with unmatched skills on hand weaving and producing one-of-a-kind looms and woven products. Hilom, on the other hand, is a wellness campaign supporting the country’s bid as a one-stop-shop medical tourism destination.
DOT assistant secretary for branding and marketing communications Howard Lance Uyking said the sector has been making the most of what the digital world offers, having presence in many, if not all of the exciting apps on online platforms
“We want to utilize as much online platforms as possible to promote our country, and of course, our culture. Throughout the pandemic, we found out that new normal travelers are looking for meaningful travels. What they want is that when they travel, they contribute something good for the environment or the destination as a whole,” he said.
Part of Filipino culture would be music, and to this end, the DOT has created a compilation of OPM songs, various playlists that will represent not only the destinations, but the different activities related to tourism. This initiative will be unveiled on February 14.
Once up, the branding division will be also creating a podcast series with a documentary format. For the first run, there will be five episodes focusing on adventure identity, culture, the rhythm of the islands, fiestas, farm and culinary.
The DOT, Uyking said, is also beefing up its website to accommodate a really big project in partnership with Google. The aim is to map out all the destinations, establishments and activities in the country, so that every information and content encoded in the website will be reflected on Google Maps and Google Drive.
“As the main search engine, Google is planning to launch the virtual tourism map this year, maximizing all means and all the other elements that maybe useful for travellers worldwide,” he said.
Boosting travel efforts are some 79 tourism circuits that were recently validated by the DOT. Called 7,641, the DOT has validated 79 domestic tourism circuits. In these tourism circuits, there are thousands of activities and attractions that tourists may find interesting.
“We developed this microsite to include all the information pertaining to these circuits so that our tourists can read up on it and watch videos or look at the photos and you know, get them excited to really explore the country through our circuits. The title is 7641, of course representing the latest count of our islands,” Uyking said.