Tour Guides to get more livelihood with Digital Bookings

In sustaining its continued commitment to support the country’s tour guiding sector, the Department of Tourism (DOT) is introducing digital innovations through its partnership with Grab so tour guides can be given access to Grab’s digital platform that would allow users to book a tour guide directly. 

The DOT National Capital Region (NCR) Office held a dialogue with Manila-based and national tour guide groups last Wednesday (May 31) attended by leaders and representatives of Accredited Tourist Guides Service Cooperative (ACTSCOOP), FS Guide, Japanese-Speaking Tourist Guides Association (JASTA), Multi-Lingual Accredited Tour Guides Association of the Philippines (MULATGAP), Philippine Association of Accredited Tourist Guide Lecturers (PAATGLI), and TG Inc. 

The dialogue served as a follow through to DOT Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco’s listening tour forum held in March. Tour guide associations, as well as independent guides, aired their concerns and most urgent needs directly to Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco and other officials of the DOT. 

“Amid the past three years of being under the pandemic and after the various challenges that has befallen the Philippines, it has been our frontliners, the tour guides, who have persevered and who have carried upon their shoulders the responsibility of championing our country among our foreign friends, convincing them to keep on visiting our country. For their sacrifices and genuine love for the country, it is only imperative for us in the DOT to convey the industry’s gratefulness to our tour guides by making sure that we listen to them and exert our best efforts to come up with innovative solutions to their needs,” Secretary Frasco said. 

The DOT NCR dialogue also served as a platform to update and consult the tour guide groups on the DOT’s initiatives, particularly on its partnership with Grab Philippines to pilot the GrabTours project in Metro Manila.  

According to DOT-NCR Director Zabala-Batin, the pilot test for the GrabTours project will offer tourist transportation from three (3) DOT-accredited accommodation establishments, namely Sheraton Manila Bay, Okada, and Solaire. Their destinations will initially cover two major tourist destinations in Manila: Intramuros and Binondo. 

For the duration of the pilot run, tourists who will book the service will have the option to book tour guiding services of DOT-accredited tour guides at their end destination. They may do so by approaching the GrabTours concierge staff at the pilot hotels’ lobby. 

ACTSCOOP President Mr. JB Quemado and representatives of other NCR tour guide associations present during the meeting positively received the latest developments on the DOT and Grab project, after the DOT NCR has clarified that Grab drivers will not serve as tour guides but will only provide transportation services. Tourist/passengers who would like to engage the services of a tour guide will be referred to the tour guide roster which Grab will integrate in its platform. In effect, DOT-accredited tour guides will have the opportunity to directly access Grab’s users now pegged at over a million people in the Philippines. 

“We express our support to this endeavor that will entice more tourists and will create more jobs for tourism stakeholders,” Quemado said. 

While noting that the pilot testing date of the GrabTours service is to be determined, Director Zabala-Batin shared that the DOT, through its Tourism Development and NCR office is continuing its consultations with tour guide associations and Grab Philippines to firm up possible product offerings including offering a “Book a Guide” on the Grab platform and also to work in partnership with DOT-accredited tour operators and travel agencies to provide the latter access to digital bookings for tour packages and bookings through Grab. 

“The democratization of travel has long arrived. Because of the convenience and connectivity provided by mobile applications, travelers and tourists have a wealth of options to book transport, travel, and the like. It is incumbent upon us to introduce innovations and digitalization to the tourism industry so as to provide increased opportunities for our DOT-accredited stakeholders to also have access to millions of potential tourists already using digital platforms to travel,” Secretary Frasco said. 

Relatedly, Director Zabala-Batin shared that about 93% of tourists that visited the Philippines in 2022 are considered independent travelers. This segment of travelers normally book by themselves. The availability of more convenient modality for travel booking and arrangement using digital platforms is therefore a most favorable opportunity both for the traveler and accredited tourism stakeholders offering legitimate services to visitors. 



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