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TravelSmart: Safe, sustainable tourism in new normal, part 2

Last 16 July 2020, Smart Communications, Inc. organized a webforum ‘#TravelSmart: Safe and Sustainable Tourism in the New Normal.’ Department of Tourism Secretary, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat was the keynote speaker. Its aim was to provide a background on the current challenges faced by the tourism industry, share best practices, and present digital tools that local tourism offices can tap as we transition to the ‘new normal.’ Part 2 focuses on digital tools and experiences.

Part 1 | Part 2

Mobile device as central to the new normal

There’s a need to find ways of working together of gradually and safely revive the confidence and excitement of Filipinos to travel and discover the beauty of the Philippines, Alfredo Panlilio, President and CEO of Smart Communications, Inc. said. Tourism is a major source of livelihood for many people. For Smart, travel and tourism are very much part of the company with the mobile phone continuing to be an important device for the traveler.

Mr. Panlilio stressed that the device is no longer used just for communicating but “an important tool for travel.” It’s a camera, an e-wallet, a multimedia player, location tracker and more. Mobiles and mobile apps help educate visitors of the rich history of each travel destination. This has been the inspiration of the digital tourism program that the company has initiated. In the time of this pandemic, mobile tech can help us deal with the covid challenges. Mobile phones can help cashless payments in tourism establishments and as a platform in contact tracing.

Digital tourism launched in Dapitan City, one of the programs of Smart Communications, Inc. in collaboration with InnoPub Media

Digital Tourism program

Launched in Cebu in 2012, Smart, in partnership with InnoPub Media, and several local government units, the Digital Tourism Program is an initiative that taps mobile technology to deliver tourism information. This entails a mobile app, e-guides and the installation of interactive markers that can be accessed via QR codes or NFC chips which can download information direct to one’s device. These are usually found in selected attractions and landmarks. To date, there are 20 LGU partners in the digital tourism program.

“Travel is all about stories. How we make sense of our experiences, how we share. How we remember it and telling stories well in the time of covid is the goal of digital tourism,” said Max Limpag, InnoPub cofounder and technology lead. “It was bourne out of a curiosity. While in a place, what’s the big deal? What’s the personal story of this place?”

And the mobile phone is central. In addition to what Mr. Panlilio said above, Max mentioned that the mobile phone is our generation’s computer. A simple computer in our pocket. It is used throughout the travel process: from inspiration, planning, payment, sharing and reminiscing those moments.”

In this pandemic, the mobile phone can be a contactless device. It can scan a QR code at an interactive marker and get curated information about the destination. The app also features the place and includes info on where to eat, sleep, what to bring for pasalubong.

The system is expandable and information therein can be updated. Foreign languages can be accommodated too as well as a portal for e-commerce. There is a lot of potential in the system to help the tourism industry as we start to reopen while strictly observing safety and health protocols.

Cashless transactions

One of the findings of the Philippine Travel Survey was that 86% of respondents expect tourism establishments to implement self service check-in, online booking and digital payments. Cashless transactions mean safety without the need for face-to-face payments.

Marvin Santos, financial tech advocate and head of Enterprise for Public Sector of Paymaya Philippines, Inc. shows us a series of how cashless transactions can be done via Paymaya online payment solutions:

  • booking a flight and hotel online
  • Paying a taxi driver via a Paymaya QR code
  • Paying for food at a restaurant via QR code
  • Paying an ambulant vendor or a pasalubong shop via QR code (Paymaya Negosyo solutions)
  • During this pandemic, getting a digital ayuda in the form of government aid or subsidy direct to one’s Paymaya account
  • Paymaya can also receive payment from foreigners as it can accept different forms of payment

These transactions are fast, secure and hassle-free. It’s cashless and best for one’s safety and protection from the virus.

Part 1 | Part 2

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