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EXCLUSIVE! Technology’s Role in Making Tourism a Cornerstone of the Philippine Economic Growth Strategy

The tourism sector is actively investigating technological advancements to improve tourist convenience and entertainment during their travels. With a plethora of tech options, travellers are increasingly using their mobile phones to discover, explore, book and experience their vacations, changing the whole process and dynamics within the tourism sector.

Online booking, interactive websites and social media marketing are examples of how technology alters the sector. Mobile apps are being created to give travellers real-time information and assistance while on the road.

Digital tools have simplified travel planning and enhanced the overall travel experience. Moreover, it has enabled businesses offering tourism-related products, services or destinations to gain greater visibility in a wider marketplace. Government agencies involved in the sector are also leveraging advanced digital tools to gain greater flexibility, control, and efficiency in managing their operations.

Philippine President Bongbong Marcos views tourism not only as a means of promoting the country’s beautiful islands but also as a potential tool for economic gain. He considers tourism as a cornerstone of the Philippines’ financial growth strategy and includes it in the master plan to achieve this goal.

A Proactive Stance

The Department of Tourism (DoT) in the Philippines is responsible for promoting and fostering the development of tourism as a crucial socio-economic activity in the country. Its primary objectives

Include encouraging and inviting potential foreign investors, as well as spreading the benefits of tourism across both the public and private sectors.

Less than a month after he took office, Philippine President Bongbong Marcos demonstrated his support for the tourism industry and emphasised the need to create enabling environments and structures for its growth. A crucial aspect of this infrastructure is the digitalisation of the DoT’s operations, which is seen as vital for its effective functioning and essential to achieving fiscal targets.

In line with the President’s vision, the Department of Tourism’s Secretary, Maria Christina Garcia Frasco, rigorously advocates for the digitalisation of services and actively promotes intra-departmental collaboration. Apart from a renewed emphasis on internal cooperation, the DoT is keen to engage with external stakeholders to achieve its goals.

A key agreement was reached between the Department of Tourism (DoT) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). The objective of this agreement is to enhance internet connectivity in identified tourism destinations, which is expected to play a crucial role in promoting and advancing the tourism industry in the Philippines.

Big Strides for 2022

The Department of Tourism is not only focused on fostering collaborations among different units within and outside the agency, but it is also keen on encouraging every citizen to participate in making the Philippines a top destination for travellers. The agency recognises the vital role that every individual can play in promoting tourism in the country, and thus, is rallying citizens to become active participants in this endeavour.

The Department of Tourism’s Bisita Be My Guest is a significant digitalisation initiative aimed at highlighting tourism destinations in the Philippines. The goal is to provide tourists with an accessible platform to explore the country’s myriad destinations and encourage them to visit the Philippines.

This web-based platform was created through the collaboration of all regional offices of DoT and local government units (LGUs) from across the country. The project involved gathering information on various destinations to promote and integrating it into the website.

Bisita Be My Guest is managed and administered by the IT team, and according to DOT’s Information Technology Division OIC Paul Brian Lao, the platform strongly encourages citizen participation in promoting tourism in the Philippines. Additionally, registered tourists are given a privilege card, which entitles them to discounts in participating tourist establishments, further promoting tourism in the country.

Greater Collaboration, Better Systems, Higher Efficiency

Greater efficiencies and advancements can be achieved when multiple stakeholders engage collaboratively. The collaborations between stakeholders in the tourism sector have been fruitful over the past year and have positively impacted the industry.

According to Paul, the plan to streamline all agencies to emphasise, strengthen, and integrate data and systems in the Philippines began years ago. While there is still a long way to go, the Department of Tourism and other government agencies are making significant progress in their digitalisation journey.

Strategy-wise, the Department of Tourism began by converting its database and are migrating to data lakes and warehouses, utilising AI for business intelligence. While the agency believes in cloud technology for app deployment, they also implement an active-passive strategy where on-premise storage acts as a backup in case of any challenges with cloud storage. This strategy ensures maximum efficiency and reliability in their operations.

Paul was delighted to reveal that their plans for improving their internal systems have been approved by the DICT. This will result in faster process turnaround times, including the accreditation of tourism-related establishments. These improvements will lead to more efficient service delivery for the private sector, ultimately benefiting individuals as they avail of tourism-related services.

Keeping data accurate and up-to-date can indeed be challenging, Paul acknowledges, especially in a fast-paced and dynamic industry like tourism. The involvement of multiple stakeholders only adds to the complexity of managing data when trying to ensure its accuracy and timeliness.

Their regular audits and data cleansing does help ensure accuracy, but it also requires the cooperation and participation of all stakeholders to provide the most updated information. This year, DoT’s IT Division will focus on securing its infrastructure and systems which should help its data strategy.

The Future of Travel Technology

AI, ML, augmented reality, virtual reality, big data analytics, and blockchain are all seen as key technologies to enhance the tourism industry and improve customer experience.

AI and ML can be used to tailor travel plans for individuals, offering suggestions for destinations, activities, and accommodations. They can also improve search capabilities and expedite the reservation process, making it faster and more convenient for consumers to plan and book their trips.

Virtual tours of destinations improve the travel planning process by letting consumers better understand their vacations before booking. Augmented and virtual reality allows travellers to virtually explore destinations, view landmarks and attractions and learn about the history and culture of a place.

Blockchain can improve security, transparency and trust in the tourism industry. From assuring the legitimacy of travel papers to enabling the secure sharing of sensitive information between travellers and service providers, blockchain technology has the potential to boost transparency and security in the travel sector.

Big data analytics may help the tourist industry better understand customer behaviour and tastes and provide insights that can be used to improve the overall travel experience and increase business efficiency.

According to Paul, increased collaboration among government agencies will be key to further advancements for the DoT in supporting the tourism industry. As the agency looks to launch new services, the growth potential will come from integrating systems and data across different agencies, which will require significant effort and resources.

Ultimately, advancements in tourism-related technology highlight opportunities that abound for stakeholders. There are ample global business opportunities to explore, and governments must gear up for the expected surge in data, information, transactions and movement of people.

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