Travel goes digital | Enquirer Business

Travel goes digital | Enquirer Business

By Linda B. Bolido
3 years ago

Filipinos eager to travel as quickly as possible now have easy access to travel information.

Smartphone technology is being used to restart and reinvigorate tourism in the Philippines, which has been in almost complete lockdown like the rest of the country due to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Tourism Promotion Board (TPB) recently launched the smartphone app Travel Philippines, which will give travelers all the information they need to plan their leisure and entertainment trips. The travel app will give users access to the latest travel advice and safety guidelines for various destinations that have reopened to tourists. It will allow users to create itineraries for future travel, find up-to-date information on popular tourist attractions, and securely store digital copies of travel documents.

Tourism Minister Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said at the launch that “the shift to digital (technology) is critical to the success of the (travel and tourism) industry.”

While the DOT and TPB won’t set revenue targets for the new app’s expected boost to domestic tourism, recent media reports have highlighted that the tourism industry is in dire need of a boost as foreign tourist numbers dwindle to an almost trickle. According to reports, tourism receipts in the first 10 months of this year fell by almost 80 percent, or 79.7 percent. Revenue this year fell to P81.05 billion, from P398.93 billion recorded in the same period last year. Strict COVID-19 quarantine protocols were in effect in many parts of the country from April to October, and the DOT said there were no records of visitor spending.

The transport ministry said there were no tourist arrivals between April and October, as international tourists were not allowed into the country.

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge globally and people from other countries still face travel restrictions not only because of local requirements but also because of health protocols in their own countries, TPB hopes the new app will at least facilitate local Travel and tourism.

“The primary goal of the Philippine Tourism Board is to encourage domestic tourism,” TPB said. But knowing that many people are still intimidated by travel, it added: “We have ensured that the functionality of this app will help the visitor through his/her journey, from the dream stage (awareness) to the exploration/discovery stage (consideration) and finally to the Procurement stage (decision).”

Developed by Himo Global Inc. (“himo” is a Visayan word for making or creating), a home-grown inclusive technology venture, the app will feature photos and articles to introduce and/or remind people of popular travel destinations , in addition to providing assistance with planning and preparation for the trip itself and during the trip. It will answer frequently asked questions, provide destination guides and will eventually have a booking platform.

TPB said the most important consideration in developing the app was ensuring travelers feel safe wherever they go and equipped with the right information to help them make informed decisions.

Romulo-Puyat said, “As the pandemic creates changing demands and challenges for travel, the Philippine Tourism Board will help domestic and international tourists have safer and more memorable travel experiences in our new normal.”

Winston Damarillo, president of Himo and CEO of Talino Venture Labs, described Travel Philippines as an “advanced application” that will continue to grow. It also works everywhere on all known devices and browsers. Best of all, the app can be accessed even when the user is offline or has no internet connection.

TPB Chief Operating Officer Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones said the app was designed to meet the end-to-end needs of users.

Even if travelers lose their phones due to theft or other reasons, they can still view saved Travel Philippines files by logging into their personal accounts. If a mobile phone is stolen, the City Planning Bureau stated that the owner should immediately change the account password.

In its initial run, Travel Philippines has six major tourist destinations that have eased the COVID-19 community quarantine. The TPB said the destinations were selected in consultation with local governments that “have first indicated their willingness to reopen to local tourists and are actively coordinating with DOT on how to safely open.”

New destinations will be added in coordination with local governments and in consultation with regional tourism officials.

The Travel Philippines app will be updated regularly to provide not only the latest essential travel information about these destinations, but also the latest local and national health and safety protocols.

Travel Philippines has a built-in itinerary generator that integrates directories of tourist attractions, local restaurants, and places to stay. Using an encrypted platform, the app allows users to upload digital copies of relevant documents such as boarding passes, hotel reservations and medical certificates to their personal accounts, allowing them to access them even without an internet connection. -contribute

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