The Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), in partnership with inclusion technology venture builder HIMO Global Inc., launched an application that helps tourists gather information about local destinations, carry documents conveniently, and travel safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel Philippines contains a destination database with a list of accredited restaurants and accommodations as well as articles on lifestyle. The information is fact-checked and updated daily by a dedicated team from DOT, TPB, and local government units. If a tourist finds a particular accommodation, restaurant, or article relevant to their trip, they can bookmark the items and organize them in a personal itinerary maker.

Digital copies of pertinent documents such as boarding passes and medical certificates can also be uploaded on a personal encrypted folder. To further ensure a smooth trip, the application’s news feed is updated with the latest health and safety protocols for each destination.

Travel Philippines is a progressive web application, meaning it can be accessed across all devices and operating systems through a web link. In consideration of areas in the country with poor Internet connection, Travel Philippines can also run offline.

The travel industry was severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the DOT saying revenues declined by 55% in the first four months of 2020 to P79.8 billion from P180.5 billion in the same period a year ago. 

Through digital initiatives such as Travel Philippines, industry leaders hope that they can recover and adapt to the new future set by the pandemic. “Travel Philippines marks DOT’s continued push to breathe new life into the severely affected tourism industry by promoting safe and responsible travel,” said department secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat in a press statement.

While the application is a step towards this new vision, the TPB clarifies that it is not a requirement for entering a destination. “Various local government units have varying policies and protocols in place,” said Anthonette Velasco Allones, chief operating officer of the TPB, during a virtual presser on October 30.

 DOT, TPB, and HIMO Global Inc. will expand the featured locations on the database as it only contains those that are open for travel, namely Palawan, Boracay, Bohol, Baguio, Ilocos Norte, and Metro Manila. They are also coordinating with the Department of Health (DOH) in getting a list of COVID-19 testing laboratories per locality.

Additional features in the pipeline include a list of travel deals offered by each destination’s local government unit, integration of cashless payments, a menu-viewing and food-ordering tool, and a chatbot that allows tourists to talk with local tour guides ahead of their trip.

“While it’s a little bit more challenging to travel, the ability to be more helpful is getting bigger,” said Winston Damarillo, president of HIMO Global Inc. — Mariel Alison L. Aguinaldo