Boljoon in southern Cebu is a town rich in culture and history. A combination of tall mountains, narrow plains, and clear seas gives it a postcard-perfect setting. The town hosts nature sites like the popular landmark Ili Rock, a geological formation that once served as a natural fortress against pirates.
With the help of mobile technology and an empowered local community, Boljoon is upgrading its tourism with the launch last Saturday of the Digital Tourism program in the town. The program is part of a nationwide campaign by wireless services leader Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) and Cebu-based new media startup InnoPub Media. In Boljoon, the program collaborated with Grassroots Travel of Boboi Costas, an award-winning pioneer in community-based eco-tourism.
Tourists heading to the town can get a comprehensive guide on their mobile phones with the launch of Boljoon Guide and the installation of interactive tourism markers in the town center.
Boljoon Guide is a comprehensive guide to the town for mobile phones. It is available for free download to Android devices from the Google Play Store and Windows Phone gadgets from the Windows Phone Store.
Connecting the dots
The app lists and provides historical background on places to go in the town. It also includes a section on where tourists can stay as well as a directory of important phone numbers. The listings are active and tourists do not need to manually dial the phone numbers, they just need to tap on the listings to initiate the call.
“Hopefully these twin projects of community-based cultural heritage tourism and digital tourism will connect the dots towards a brighter, sustainable and vibrant tourism industry in our beloved town. We are very thankful to Smart, InnoPub and Grassroots Travel,” said Boljoon Mayor Merlou Derama.
Cebu Gov. Hilario P. Davide III said the provincial administration of Cebu recognizes tourism as a key trigger to economic development not just in a specific community for tourist destination but in the province as a whole.
“Highlighting Cebu’s heritage and traditions through digital tourism will make historical and cultural information interactive and readily available,” he said.
Interactive tourism markers
Boljoon, Smart and InnoPub also deployed interactive tourism markers in the town center. The markers contain a quick response or QR code and near-field communications or NFC stickers that, when scanned or tapped with a compatible device, trigger the download of more information about a site or structure.
“This project in Boljoon is a perfect intersection of our advocacy for the use of mobile technologies for tourism and our support for sustainable livelihood in communities. We’re excited to see how this can be a good model for other areas in the country,” said Atty. Maria Jane Paredes, senior manager for Public Affairs Group – Visayas and Mindanao at Smart.
“Digital Tourism harnesses technology to enhance tourism – two things the Philippines is known for. It uses mobile technology to deliver tourism, cultural and historical information to people through devices that we carry around with us wherever we go: phones and tablets,” said InnoPub Media co-founder Max T. Limpag.
In Boljoon, the project tapped local volunteers in mapping cultural, historical and nature tourism resources in the town. Costas trained the volunteers and held sessions to organize the community into identifying tourism resources of the town.
“This is an asset-based development. We taught the community members that all they need was a paradigm shift; that they don’t need to look far and invest heavily on money to join the tourism industry. The resources needed for tourism development are right at their doorstep: heritage, history and having pride of place,” said Costas.
The Boljoon implementation of the program is part of a province-wide expansion of the tourism project pioneered in Cebu. The Cebu Province component was launched in Argao last year by Governor Davide.
The Digital Tourism program was recognized by the Cebu City Council in a resolution passed on mass motion last January 2012 as an “ingenious” way of delivering information. Last February, the program was recognized with an Anvil Award of Merit during the 49th Anvil Awards held at the Solaire Resort and Casino.