The Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Philippines, the marketing and promotions arm of the Department of Tourism (DOT), kicked off the first hybrid Tourism & Technology Forum (TTF) on Wednesday at Okada, Manila with the theme “Accelerating Digital Technologies for Sustainable and SMARTourism”.

The two-day hybrid event aims to provide a learning platform for industry stakeholders to take advantage of recent developments and innovations in technology through a series of informative sessions and open discussions from distinguished guests and speakers.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and TPB COO Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones led the hybrid opening ceremony attended by more than 900 registered participants, most of whom are attending virtually with limited participants on site, and from various tourism industry sectors. Also gracing the event were Tourism Congress Philippines President, Mr. Jojo Clemente, and Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) CEO, Mr. Mario Hardy, both of whom gave solidarity messages.

“One of the Department of Tourism’s strategic objectives is the pivot to SMARTourism. We want to strengthen digital platforms, ensure data-driven planning, and expand other tools for promotions and marketing,” said Secretary Puyat during her keynote message.

“Smart tourism is defined according to technological capabilities of a particular destination, attraction or the tourists themselves. Just like any other destination, the ultimate aim of smart tourism is to improve the efficiency of resource management, upgrade the level of our competitiveness, and to enhance sustainability through the use of technological innovations and practices,” she added.

Plenary sessions will feature tech industry giants including former DICT Commissioner and CEO of IdeaCorp., Prof. Emmanuel Lallana, who will discuss “Digital Transformation in PH Tourism”; and Singapore-based Global Chief Public Services Industry Scientist of Huawei Technologies, Mr. Hong-Eng Koh, who will take on “The Imperative for Digital Public Services towards SMARTourism”, to name a few.

De La Salle University Professor Dr. Francisco Magno, Deputy Director of the International Centre for Tourism and Hospitality Research and Bournemouth University Professor, DimitriosBuhalis, and Baguio City Tourism Officer Mr. Alec Mapalo, whose VISITA app is one of the first local tourism contact tracing platforms, will also discuss frameworks and trends in a panel entitled “Sustaining Smart Tourism within Smart Cities”.

“Our tourism stakeholders continuously improve their operations to thrive in the competitive market and craft strategies to keep tourism alive amidst the challenging times.  The forum hopes to expand the discourse not only to generate best practices and new ideas in response to the current situation but also to foster good relationships and strengthen collaboration within the sector to plan future projects relative to the promotion of Smart Tourism in the Philippines.

Changes in the travel and technology landscape go beyond improving our processes or the tourist experience; it entails transforming the entire tourism system itself.

“I do hope that the Tourism & Technology Forum will encourage everyone to continue to rethink travel by building a dynamic Philippine tourism; enhancing our destinations’ product offerings, and meeting the demands of our increasingly tech-savvy international and domestic travelers,” Secretary Puyat concluded.