The tourism industry is one of the sectors hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, with travel restrictions forcing the closure of hotels and other establishments offering accommodations.
But the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) has always been optimistic that tourism will soon bounce back, and Filipino and foreign travelers will once again queue up for flights and bus rides, and ring bells on hotel’s front desks.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) has already announced the opening of some areas for leisure travel in places with looser pandemic restrictions, with several more locations preparing to accept tourists.
And to help Filipinos plan their next travel, HSMA has once again launched GPSTV, an online travel show featuring not only some of the country’s most notable destinations, but also reminders on how to navigate the “new normal” of travelling.
Hosted by Kevin Lapeña, the digital show will have 16 episodes, including nine “bite-sized” installments streaming from the GPSTV Facebook page and YouTube channel. The first episode came out in September, and the season will release its finalé episode in December.
HSMA Vice President Loleth So said in a recent virtual media conference that GPSTV is “a collaborative effort aimed at reigniting the interest of millions of Filipinos, while keeping in mind health and safety.”
The travel show will remind people “how beautiful the Philippines is,” she added.
So said that while the maiden season was informative, and created awareness on lifestyle and market destinations, the latest one will have “a more in-depth approach to experiential travel.”
The second season’s theme is “Go safe, go travel: Walk and talk with us,” and has three components—gastronomy, city staycations, and “bakasyon grande.”
GPSTV will also have an hour-long special telecast on CNN Philippines some time in November, something that the first season did not have.
And while the online episodes relied on existing footage and other materials provided by HSMA member-hotels, GPSTV will film segments for the TV special, featuring some of the most alluring destinations in Luzon and the Visayas.
But with an abundance of travel shows already available on television and digital platforms, GPSTV remains a must-watch because it is “produced by travel practitioners and the property,” HSMA Director Carmela Bocanegra said.
“Some inside information may be injected in the video. It is a very good guide as a travel buddy for domestic travel,” she added.
To allay fears about stepping out and enjoying travel, HSMA and the government have diligently followed health and safety precautions to ensure the protection of guests. In fact, all HSMA members and affiliates have received COVID-19 vaccines.
Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Chief Operating Officer Anthonette Allones said Tourism Sec. Berna Romulo-Puyat’s calculated response saw the rolling out of inoculation programs among tourism workers in destinations traditionally accepting a high volume of tourists, to help speed up their opening for leisure travelers.
She also said the government has offered testing subsidies for those intending to travel.
Destinations requiring RT-PCR test results have turned off many travelers because of the additional cost of the procedure. But the government, through the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, is offering discounted rates for qualified domestic tourists.
Allones, meanwhile, commended HSMA’s GPSTV initiative for its availability to prospective travelers, the accuracy of the information included in the episodes, and the integrity of the team that ensures the authenticity of the claims made in the show, as well as its encouragement for tourists to consider traveling again.
But HSMA’s pandemic pivot does not end with GPSTV.
Because of the success of its SOS (September Online Sale) promotions last year, the group launched another virtual exposition this year with 78 of its members participating.
HSMA President Benjie Martinez said in just its first week, SOS generated P6 million in total sales of vouchers for accommodations and dining.
With the online sale running until Oct. 15, the group is looking at a huge revenue collection for the industry. So said this year’s SOS has already exceeded last year’s sale.
She also said she hopes that the awareness that GPSTV will generate will translate to more traffic in the properties under HSMA’s wings, and they are hopeful that the industry will start to pick up by the first quarter of 2022.
HSMA Chair Margarita Munsayac believes that her group can reignite the people’s desire to travel by teaching tourists how to navigate destinations through GPSTV.
“Destinations are slowly opening, and we are hopeful that in December, things will be better. GPSTV is there to give inspiration. This also assures our members that we are helping them, so they should look forward to the recovery of the tourism industry soon,” she declared. —BY ARMIN ADINA