By Caesar Vallejos
OPEN FOR BUSINESS, Eagle News
In spite of the country’s rich natural resources and great customer service, the Philippine tourism industry is faced with roadblocks that include the lack of facilities and infrastructures. The need to maximize digital technologies will help realize the industry’s full development, spurring the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises in the country.
“If we can just develop this particular aspect of our economy, I think this has the opportunity to provide significant jobs. About 14 million are already involved in this industry. It is an industry that we can excel at in this country,” Globe Telecom President and CEO Ernest Cu said in his remarks at “Breakthroughs: Tourism” a conference held at the SMX Aura last March 21 that seeks to empower and inspire tourism stakeholders to create the future of travel.
“This industry needs a lot of updating in terms of the digital world,” Cu said. The lack of up-to-date marketing competency is one of the threats to the continued growth of the tourism sector along with the entry of new players and retention of skilled employees, according to an SGS Philippines survey.
While “digital is changing how things are done”, Cu noted that “advertising in the world of hotels, airlines, in the world of tourism sites, have not changed. One negative comment on TripAdvisor can make a difference. These are days when a 5-star or 4.5 rating on TripAdvisor can change the world for a restaurant or even a small boutique hotel,” Cu said.
TripAdvisor Destination Marketing Manager Gary Cheng was one of the speakers of the event who tackled the topic on “Global Traveler Trends for the Philippine Tourism Industry”.
One of the insights Cu shared on advertising is that millennials don’t look at them. “Millennials will get recommendations from others to decide where to spend their money,” he said.
While the pervasion of digital technologies, innovative business models such as on-demand lodging and short-term rentals, and the unexpected competition from online travel agencies are bringing opportunities, these are also posing challenges that hamper the industry from maximizing growth.
Department of Tourism (DOT) figures show that the industry contributed around 21% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2017 recording 7.1 million visitors in 2018, up 7.65% from the previous year.
Free wifi over free breakfast
Cu said that Globe will support the tourism industry by bringing in infrastructure to tourism destinations. He shared his personal involvement in helping bring a cell site or coverage in Busuanga and Coron.
The resort owner, Cu said, has a beautiful resort but customers are complaining because they cannot share the beautiful pictures on Instagram of Facebook. A “revelation in the world of digital” is that some “guests would rather get free wifi than free breakfast.”
“We worked together in partnership to create a business case that will facilitate the building of facilities”, thus providing connectivity to the resort. “So it is possible by working with us to make that happen,” the Globe CEO said as he addressed the group composed of SMEs and various stakeholders in the tourism industry.
The Globe CEO emphasized its commitment to empower small businesses. “Small business, we believe, is the backbone of this nation,” he said. “Companies like us will enable you through our digital assets and resources like the cloud, social media and digital advertising.”
While Cu reiterated the need to develop facilities including airports and roads in tourism destinations, he said that the country’s natural resource and customer service make up for a “really great form of economic force.”
“Service in Asia is better than what we get in Europe, in the United States or other parts of the world simply because the Filipino people have such warm, caring individuals opening their humble homes and arms to many foreigners in the guise of a great customer service,” Cu said.
Driver of growth
“Globe myBusiness partners with SMEs so that we can empower them with technology in expanding their business and making them successful through the use of our mobile connectivity solutions, office connectivity solutions and other digital tools that they can use for destination marketing and to make their operations more efficient,” said Michelle Tapia, Head of Strategy, Innovation and Transformation at Globe myBusiness.
“Supporting sustainable tourism is one of our ways in taking care of our country. If we are able to support the growth of the tourism sector, we are also helping the growth of SMEs,” she said.
The accommodation and food services sectors account for the second largest in the number of SMEs in the tourism industry.
“Globe myBusiness wants to ensure that they have the right connectivity and the business solutions for their digital marketing and operational efficiency, including facilitating their digital or online payments,” Tapia said.
“The startups now especially those owned by the millennials have technology in their DNA. They want to make sure that they are able to use digital tools for their e-commerce or social media. These are core activities especially for millennials,” she added.
Ms. Tapia also stressed that it is important for hotel owners or restaurants to ensure that their products and services are ‘Instagrammable’ so that consumers can share their experiences that help drive foot traffic to the business.
Globe is also present in emerging destinations. “We are there for them in the long haul and not just on a short term engagement. We want to be part of the community and to grow with the community specially in emerging destinations,” Tapia said.
DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat disclosed on her keynote speech that Globe CEO Ernest Cu agreed to join two other companies, Cebu Pacific and Jollibee, in helping DOT promote the country’s tourist destinations through its latest campaign.
“That is a surprise! Wait for our participation in the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign,” Tapia exclaimed.