Cavite Redefines Tourism Amid Digital Transformation

When information spreads like wildfire nowadays, how does technology impact the travel industry?

We’ve heard it before; how the influence of social media encourages heavy flocks of tourists to visit an area only to leave it corrupted with vandalism. Meanwhile, we also hear reports about the tourism industry soaring higher today, paving the way to sustain small communities through trade and livelihood opportunities for the locals.

Think about it again — do we have to harm the environment in exchange for economic progress? In this age of reputation-centric travel, where do we draw the line?

In a conference organized and hosted by Cavite Provincial Tourism Office last October 12, 2018 at Lyceum of the Philippines University-Cavite, many interesting points were raised to challenge the prevailing landscape of tourism amid the fast-moving digital transformation.

The event was opened by Cavite Governor Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla, together with his son and Indang Councilor Ping Remulla. Under the leadership of Elinia Imelda Rozelle S. Sangalang, Officer-in-Charge of Cavite Provincial Tourism Office, the forum paved a way for Caviteños to take a closer look at what sustainable tourism really is.

Playing it smart

Ms. Marites Castro, Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Tourism Region IV-A, sets the tone of the discussion by casting the office’s vision to build a “tourism industry that promotes inclusive growth.

Castro highlighted that tourism contributed to 12.2% of the country’s GDP during the past year, based on the records from Philippine Tourism Satellite Account. According to the same report, “13.1% of total employment is in tourism industries, equivalent to 5.27 million jobs.”

Both foreign and local tourist rates are thriving. While inbound tourists increased by 11% in 2017, reaching 6.62 million arrivals, domestic tourism alone made an estimated 96,720,627 trips last year.

Be it Facebook, Google or Instagram, the new approach to destination marketing has become more efficient and targeted by the use of various online platforms available today. 49% of travellers share vacation-related online content if they think friends/family will enjoy seeing it. Also, foreign tourists enjoy freedom better as barriers like communication across borders and working remotely have already been addressed by different online systems.

When it comes to facilities and services, the tourism sector ups the tourist’s experience by providing smart concepts such as Mobile App, Booking System, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Mobile Tour Guide and Automated Data Gathering.

“The future of travel is technology-based, so tourism jobs will require both technical and advanced soft skills used to effectively implement and manage smart initiatives. Digitally-enabled growth will also generate new employment opportunities that could outpace the automation of existing roles, especially as strong growth is forecast for the sector,” says Castro.

One example of the smart tourism concept is Cavite’s very own Aguinaldo Shrine Video Mapping. Video mapping employs digitally generated images based on the architectural line of a structure to form an illusion.

Nurturing local communities

Technology has given us a big avenue to speak and be an advocate for something. Everyone in this era is empowered to act and react, to reinforce or oppose matters online. Can this privilege benefit the tourism sector as well?

“The 21st century is the era of sharing and caring,” says Mark Joseph Tinao, Head of Business Development in International School of Sustainable Tourism.

While travel means leisure for most, it also opens the eyes of tourists to a bigger viewpoint. Nature immersion, cultural preservation, healthier food, and less waste generation are only a few of the things that tourists become aware of once they’re exposed to the realities of traveling.

“Technology catalyses tourism,” tells Tinao to the young audiences as he emphasized how the two are not contrasts, rather beneficial to one another when used appropriately.

Tinao suggests that there are more ways to enrich the experience of tourists in the Philippines. Themes such as farm tourism, faith-based tourism, and ecotourism, when brought to the spotlight, will not only give leisure and relaxation to the tourists but will also take them deeper into our culture.

Agri-tourism is highly supported and promoted in the province of Cavite. Through farm visits in Indang, Mendez, Silang and Alfonso, locals are able to give tourists the experiential learning and consciousness to the environment.

Influencing your market

Market research has immensely transformed since the rise of digitalization. In his talk, Jeremiah Balan of Ripple Trend highlighted that technology has allowed us to research and gather data, insights which affect the decision-making process, in a matter of one click.

The most reliable source of information for travel-related products and services is no other than the first-hand customers themselves. Word-of-mouth today takes in many forms. It could be as simple as a Facebook post, a TripAdvisor review, and even Instagram tagging. With precise and genuine recommendations from known or alien networks over the web, it is undeniable that technology is moulding the new market to become intelligent travellers.

“Social media is a massive source of inspiration for would-be travellers without a destination,” says Balan.

Travel and tourism entrepreneurs should see the new customer journey with enthusiasm. Social media hasn’t just opened opportunities for influence but it has also created a space to identify its customers better.

Empowering travellers

“If you visited a place and was not able to take a photo of it, it only means you genuinely enjoyed and appreciated the destination,” says Michelle Enriquez, Founder of the online community DIY Travel Philippines. With over half a million members, the online community of Filipino travellers share their sentiments, tips and experiences on the Facebook group.

Enriquez gave the audience a better understanding of what DIY in traveling meant. In DIY, one would create their own itinerary, determine their own budget and contact/book travel operators themselves.

The do-it-yourself method motivates travellers to be discerning and clever in terms of planning and research. It also makes the travel experience more remarkable, considering the involvement of the tourists themselves.

“We highly encourage everyone to participate and be involved,” says Enriquez.

Groups like DIY Travel Philippines establish a sense of belongingness for the local tourists. While members share their travel hacks and resources to the group, the community also empowers everyone to be ambassadors for the nature. Few of the movements that DIY Travel Philippines support are: preserving the environment by banning single-use plastics, and using refillable containers; immersing to the local community by respecting the rules implemented in the place visited, interacting with locals, and respecting their traditions.

Sustainable tourism begins when we leave nothing but positive changes in our destinations — be it on the aspect of environment, society and economy. The Provincial Tourism Office, through this forum, aims to inspire Filipinos to practice environmental and socio-cultural consciousness while traveling. (Louise Santiano)