Department of Tourism Partners with Grab to Digitalize Tourism Industry: “Nobody Will Be Left Behind”

The Department of Tourism (DOT) assures stakeholders, including hotels, tour operators, and tourist transport providers, that “nobody will be left behind” in its commitment to digitalize the tourism industry. This statement was made during a dialogue on June 13, addressing the recently piloted Grab Tours Project, which aims to integrate tourism into Grab’s all-in-one technology platform.

The Grab Tours Project, piloted from June 6 to 12, seeks to bring various tourism services, including tour packages, under the umbrella of Grab’s technology platform, which currently offers mobility, food deliveries, and financial services.

In the dialogue, DOT Undersecretary Atty. Mae Elaine Bathan, quoting Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, emphasized the DOT’s focus on including micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the digital transformation, acknowledging their vital role in the tourism value chain. The initiative also aims to empower accredited tourism-related enterprises (TREs), recognizing their resilience during the pandemic.

Consultation was highlighted as a crucial aspect of the public-private partnership. Roberto Zozobrado, President of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP), expressed optimism about the project’s potential benefits for tourism stakeholders. Fe Abling-Yu, President of the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA), offered active collaboration and support in introducing the project to the public.

Grab Philippines’ Kurt Cendaña clarified that Grab aims to collaborate with the travel and tourism industry by providing technology, branding, and marketing support. He assured stakeholders that Grab does not intend to compete with them but aims to offer a more convenient way of booking tours.

Benito Bengzon, Jr., Executive Director of the Philippine Hotel Owners Association, expressed support for the initiative and suggested prioritizing accredited TREs in DOT promotions and business opportunities.

As part of its commitment, Grab Philippines has trained select drivers who will be part of Grab Tours, and 30 participating drivers are forming a cooperative seeking DOT accreditation as a tourist transport provider.

Representatives from the tourism industry, recognizing the importance of digitalization, expressed their willingness to fully support the project. The majority, composed mainly of MSMEs, acknowledged that “digitalization is the only way forward.”

In attendance were DOT Undersecretary Shahlimar Hofer Tamano, National Capital Region Director Sharlene Batin, Director Judilyn Quiachon, Head Executive Assistant Atty. Glen Ocampo, and other officers from the DOT standards and regulations division. Representatives from various sectors included Aileen Clemente of Rajah Travel Corp, Florence Rivera of the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies, Melody Palomares of the United Travel Agency Owners Association, Lira Sarigumba of the Independent Travel Agency and Tour Operators Association, and Victor Martinez of the Philippine Association of Transport Operators, Inc.