By Terence Repelente
Images by Faith Yangyang
What better way to celebrate the 156th birth anniversary of our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, than to enrich and develop our country’s tourism, heritage, and cultural appreciation. The National Commission of Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Department of Tourism (DOT) have partnered with Smart Communications Inc., and Inno Pub Media to launch the KulTOURa mobile travel guide app. The official launch of the mobile application was appropriately held at Rizal Park Visitor’s Center in Manila.
Smart head of Community Engagement and Partnerships Gabby R. Cui, PLDT and Smart Public Affairs Group head Ramon R. Isberto, NCCA chairman and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario, National Parks Development Committee executive director Penelope Belmonte, DOT undersecretary for Oversight Function for Legislative Matters Falconi Millar, and InnoPub Media co-founder Max Limpag were the panelists who spearheaded the launch on June 19.
Be your own guide
The KulTOURa app features extensive information on heritage sites, historic schools and churches, nature parks, popular attractions, famous landmarks, and other iconic and distinguished places in different parts of the country. The interactive app is also full of vibrant and colorful details of history of selected cities and provinces, this includes some known personalities who were born and/or raised in that place, signature delicacies, and other interesting facts and trivia.
The travel guide app is available as a free download for iOS and Android devices. According to the app’s leading developer Max Limpag, KulTOURa will undergo a series of updates and continuous development to supply more relevant content and suitable design to invite more tourists to explore the country and to maximize the market effectiveness of the latest mobile technology. Soon it will include other interactive services such as an assistive chat bot that will provide a fully automated travel guides and tips, a digital marketplace that will enable purchases and business transaction for a smoother souvenir shopping experience, and an advanced feature that will allow you to take virtual tours.
To enhance the tourist experience, Smart will also provide high-speed Wi-Fi and install quick response (QR) codes and near-field communications (NFC) chips on markers in selected areas to enable access to additional travel information via phone scan.
The KulTOURa app, the tourist markers, and the provision for high-speed connectivity are part of the Digital Tourism program, which was launched by InnoPub and Smart in 2012 in partnership with local government units. The Digital Tourism program aims to harness mobile technology to promote tourism and the preservation of cultural and heritage sites. It has been implemented in famous destinations such as Baguio, Bohol, Albay, Dapitan, and Davao.
For the Millenials
KulTOURa’s function does not end in Philippine tourism; it also aims to invite the Millennials to appreciate our culture and history. In fact, according to Virgilio Almario, the challenge of involving them in cultural awareness is what gave birth to the app. “I asked Noel De Guia, how we can possibly connect with the Millennials, how we can possibly relate to them—the heritage and history of our country. Sabi niya (he said), ‘Why don’t we use the thing that they’re using?’ So, we started the meeting about how to do it,” Rio Alma shared. “For DOT, it’s for the tourists. For us, it’s for the Millennials.”
Rio Alma also stressed the importance of getting the attention of the Millennials and engaging them to become culturally aware. He would like them to be more knowledgeable about the culture, the heritage, the history of our country. “Because as I heard it from several quarters, it seems that the main problem of the Millennials is that they don’t know much about our country,” he said. “So this project is specially tailored for them because we would like them, through the use of modern IT, to be able to get to them the information that we would like to impart to them.”
The mobile app is also a handy and convenient resource for students. The comprehensive information found on the app can help them gain a better understanding of the rich culture and history of the country that would help academics in terms of information and other educational purposes.
KulTOURa is, overall, a very promising application. It aims to develop our country’s tourism in both a cultural and technological way. If Dr. Jose P Rizal were a Millennial living today, I’m sure he’d appreciate this birthday gift.