Department of Tourism Partners with Grab to Revolutionize Tour Guiding Services Through Digital Innovations
In a groundbreaking move to support the tour guiding sector, the Department of Tourism (DOT) has joined forces with Grab, the leading ride-hailing platform in Southeast Asia. This strategic partnership aims to introduce digital innovations, allowing tour guides to directly connect with users through Grab’s digital platform, streamlining the booking process for tourists.
The initiative was unveiled during a dialogue organized by the DOT National Capital Region (NCR) Office on May 31, attended by leaders and representatives of prominent tour guide groups in Manila. Among the participating associations were the 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 continuation of DOT Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco’s listening tour forum held in March, where tour guide associations and independent guides conveyed their concerns and immediate needs directly to Secretary Frasco and other DOT officials.
Secretary Frasco expressed gratitude to the tour guides for their dedication and resilience, especially during the challenges posed by the pandemic. She emphasized the DOT’s commitment to listening to the industry’s frontline workers and implementing innovative solutions to meet their needs.
The dialogue also provided a platform to update and consult tour guide groups on the DOT’s initiatives, particularly the collaboration with Grab Philippines to pilot the GrabTours project in Metro Manila.
According to DOT-NCR Director Zabala-Batin, the pilot test for GrabTours will offer tourist transportation from three DOT-accredited accommodation establishments: Sheraton Manila Bay, Okada, and Solaire. The initial destinations will include two major tourist spots in Manila, namely Intramuros and Binondo.
During the pilot run, tourists booking the service will have the option to engage DOT-accredited tour guides at their end destination by approaching GrabTours concierge staff at the pilot hotels’ lobby.
ACTSCOOP President Mr. JB Quemado and other NCR tour guide associations expressed support for the collaboration, clarifying that Grab drivers will solely provide transportation services and not serve as tour guides. Tourists seeking guided services will be referred to DOT-accredited tour guides integrated into Grab’s platform, offering these guides direct access to Grab’s extensive user base, currently exceeding a million people in the Philippines.
Quemado stated, “We express our support to this endeavor that will entice more tourists and will create more jobs for tourism stakeholders.”
While the pilot testing date is pending determination, Director Zabala-Batin highlighted ongoing consultations with tour guide associations and Grab Philippines to solidify potential offerings. These include introducing a “Book a Guide” feature on the Grab platform and collaborating with DOT-accredited tour operators and travel agencies to provide digital bookings for tour packages through Grab.
Secretary Frasco emphasized the importance of digitalization in the tourism industry, stating, “The democratization of travel has long arrived. It is incumbent upon us to introduce innovations and digitalization to the tourism industry to provide increased opportunities for our DOT-accredited stakeholders.”
In a related note, Director Zabala-Batin shared that approximately 93% of tourists visiting the Philippines in 2022 were independent travelers who typically book their arrangements. The collaboration with Grab aims to tap into this trend, offering both travelers and accredited tourism stakeholders more convenient and accessible options through digital platforms.