This non-profit tech innovation helps destinations adapt to health, safety protocols
Rosette Adel (Philstar.com) - July 24, 2020 - 11:46am

MANILA, Philippines — A non-profit tech innovation is calling for nature-based destinations that could pilot test its sustainable visitor management platform in a bid to help them recover the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the COVID-19 pandemic that paused global tourism, several tourist destinations, communities and conservation that heavily rely on the industry are suffering the due to the lack of funding and this tech innovation seeks to help these destinations recover by equipping them with the right technology.

Visita, a visitor management platform comprised of a website and an application, was specifically developed for nature-based destinations. It aims to help these tourist spots adapt to the health and safety precautions under the so-called “new normal.”

While this technology and education initiative was developed pre-COVID it was designed to address the challenges faced by the tourism industry including overtourism, undertourism, irresponsible tourist behaviors and issues on policy enforcement, among others.

How it can help during COVID-19 pandemic

In view of this, Visita could help destination managers alleviate overtourism as this innovation allows them to limit their carrying capacity and manage tourist traffic that could in turn also aid them in implementing social distancing, minimizing physical contact.

The app and website likewise help in destination’s shift to digitizing its services with paperless transactions.

Features

Visita enables online visit requests, contact-free processes, data management through its online channels.

Aside from implementing sustainable practices, the visitor management platform was also designed to help destination managers educate their guests on policies and biodiversity as they also seek to eliminate environmental offenses

It integrates conservation agreements, waivers and visit terms and conditions into the system.

Through its website, tourists can read more about the destination as it bares an overview of the site including fees and activities offered and other things they need to prepare and settle.

Guests can likewise pay these conservation fees online.

The Visita app, on the other hand, allows guests to digitally check in and out.

Destination frontliners can also access the app to orient the guests prior to their visit or experience.

Pamela Valle, project manager of Visita said the application requires guests to fill out requirement conservation agreement so that they can abide by the rules and policies, waivers for actual visit.

Under the new normal, the visitor management could also help destination managers should they need to conduct contact tracing as the technology allows them to have access to relevant information about their guests while strictly following data privacy policies.

Guests will also be asked to answer survey or feedback form to help improve the destination’s performance in the future that could help destination managers monitor the tourist behavior.

How the innovation was developed

Visita was was developed using a grant received from the Booking Cares Fund in 2018. It was inspired by the learnings of the Masungi Georeserve Foundation in sustainable visitor management for conservation.

“We travelled and immersed ourselves in at least three island and mountain destinations to ensure we come up with a product that solves current pain points. We observed existing processes, identified gaps, and asked for the destinations’ wish list in developing the design and features of the platform,” Valle said.

“We also consulted experts in technology, data privacy, and sustainable tourism research such as the Asian Institute of Management - Andrew Tan Center for Tourism in designing the prototype,” she added.

Nature-based destinations

Among the three destinations that expressed its interest in using Visita’s system is the wildlife-based whaleshark tourism destination Donsol.

“Digitizing the visitor management system enables us to maximize technology and use it to further promote sustainable community ecotourism — the heart of the tourism industry of Donsol. We believe that a digitized management system will also make our tourism product more accessible to our guests even amidst the health crisis,” Lieanne Idjao, tourism focal person of the municipality of Donsol local government unit.

“Not only will it enable us to make paperless transactions possible, it will also be an effective tool to model practices that will be beneficial to the environment,” she added.

Visita has also studied and consulted nature-based destinations Mt. Pulag National Park and Kalangaman Island in Leyte.

“The managing bodies for these destinations have communicated that they are focusing on crafting health and safety protocols for their tourism activities and will tap us when they are ready to reopen to the public,” Valle told Philstar.com.

The project manager said the parameters of the pilot test for other interested destinations can be adjusted depending on their needs and capacity. 

CARRYING CAPACITY NEW NORMAL NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PHILIPPINE TOURISM SUSTAINABLE TOURISM
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