Supporting hands | TTG Asia

Asia-Pacific’s tourism boards have been uplifting the local travel and tourism community throughout the travel crisis, from funding intensive marketing efforts on behalf of embattled tourism players, to training the private sector for a post-pandemic tourism future and providing mental wellness support for distressed tourism workers. By TTG Asia reporters

Content push
Australia’s international borders have only just started to reopen in stages but its tourism body has been hard at work during the pandemic, with initiatives that inspire continued holiday dreams in the country.

Tourism Australia launched an immersive virtual travel activation called Live From Aus in May 2020, which saw some of Australia’s best tourism offerings streamed in real time to millions around the world, featuring Australian personalities, advocates and tourism operators.

The 48-hour event showcased something new every hour for an entire weekend while most of the world was locked down, far exceeding their initial exposure target across various channels to reach 34 million online views from 40 countries and multiplied tenfold the immediate number of searches for Australian holiday experiences on booking.com.

Tourism Australia next ran an Australia in 8D content initiative in October 2020 as an online series on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. The videos blended footage of Australian landscapes and moments using innovative 8D audio technology to create a 360-degree dreamlike soundscape of the country.

According to Tourism Australia, the campaign was watched by 74 millions viewers across Australia’s key markets including China, Singapore, Indonesia, the UK and the US.

In March 2021, Tourism Australia announced yet another content creation initiative, this time supporting tourism businesses directly through a programme to help them stand out more in online search results by assisting with improved market collateral for their attractions, including video.

More than 50 operators have been featured so far in the National Experience Content Initiative, a plan that aims to provide new visual assets for up to 1,800 tourism experiences from 57 regions. Each operator receives 40 still images, a 60-second edited video and 10 minutes of B-roll footage.

It is also expected that Tourism Australia will have a role in the National Indigenous Tourism Mentoring Program, which the government opened for tender in October 2021. It aims to provide one-on-one support to indigenous tourism business owners by building business skills and developing new products to attract visitors as the industry begins to recover. – Adelaine Ng

Tourism Australia’s National Experience Content Initiative programme generates new destination visual assets for local tourism operators to help them stand out in their marketing efforts

Be at home
Recognising the significance of domestic tourism in a post-pandemic travel era, India’s ministry of tourism and its field offices launched the Dekho Apna Desh campaign, which translates to “explore your country”. The initiative sees the ministry promoting domestic destinations and developing skills of local tourism and hospitality stakeholders.

An extension of this strategy, the tourism board introduced Incredible India Mega Homestay Development & Training Workshops to sharpen hospitality understanding among homestay owners across the country so as to ensure a better guest experience. Kochi and Darjeeling were among the destinations to benefit from these workshops. Organised with Eastern Himalayas Travel & Tour Operator Association as a resource partner, the three-day-long workshop in Darjeeling was attended by some 725 homestay owners from Darjeeling, Kalimpong and the foothills of Dooars.

The Incredible India Mega Homestay Development & Training Workshops also sought to raise awareness of lesser-known regions like Eastern Himalayas and Dooars among domestic and inbound tourists. Such efforts not only pave the way for future tourism development, they also contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals of India’s ministry of tourism and the UNWTO.

The focus on homestays coincides with the ministry’s intention to promote astro tourism. Trained on basic astronomy and telescope operation, homestay owners – mostly women – conduct night-sky gazing sessions for guests. This creates a new revenue channel for the locals, encourages entrepreneurship, reduces migration of community youths, and preserves Himalayan heritage. – Rohit Kaul

India is roping in womenfolk to support the destination’s astro tourism ambition

Local support
With international borders snapped shut, Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) shifted its gears to the domestic market and launched its first domestic tourism campaign, Holiday at Home, in 2020.

The campaign, which is on-going, calls on Hong Kong residents to play tourists and rediscover the tourism appeal of their home city. Through six themes – Scenic Harbour, Lively Culture, Wellness Retreat, Endless Entertainment, Gastro-fantasies and Shopping Fiesta – and itineraries covering 120 points of interests, the campaign also drives much-needed income to local merchants. The platform functions as a collective marketing channel for local businesses to promote their products and offers.

Holiday at Home offers invaluable support for merchants at a time when business is decimated and marketing budgets are no more.

In October 2020, HKTB boosted efforts with three rounds of spend-to-redeem programmes, which incentivised consumers to head out and spend with local merchants. Discounts on hotel staycations and free city tours were up for grabs with every HK$800 (US$102) in expenditure at participating physical retail or dining outlets.

The spend-to-redeem programmes were a big hit, with redemptions claimed very swiftly. HKTB likened the programmes to “a stone that kills many birds”, as they satiated residents’ desire for travel and hospitality experiences, drove patronage to retail and dining sectors, supported local tourism sectors, and uncovered new tourism assets for development.

Besides raking in HK$40 million in local tourism spend, the spend-to-redeem free tours created jobs for more than 45 travel agencies that have been strickened by a lack of business since the pandemic hit. The programme’s staycation redemptions also facilitated some 20,000 room occupancies and resulted in HK$25 million worth of sales for 140 participating hotels. – Prudence Lui

Night sky over Namgyal Tsemo Gompa in Ladakh, India; Hong Kong Tourism Board’s Holiday at Home domestic tourism campaign provides marketing relief for struggling local businesses

People power
Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) has chosen to harness the power of travel and tourism professionals whose jobs have been affected by the global travel freeze, leveraging their hospitality expertise to create improved traveller experiences while providing relief to unemployment woes.

MGTO’s many Tourist Information counters established across the destination sought the employment of displaced tour guides.

Its new Incubation Plan for Macao’s KOL in Tourism, coordinated with the help of the Macau Live Streaming Association, also prioritised placements for tourism industry professionals, especially tour guides. The training programme encourages Macau residents to promote the destination through their social networks, and courses acquaint participants with content planning and creation, short video production, social media familiarity, and more.

The programme helped tourism industry professionals to combine their understanding of Macau’s best experiences with newfound creative production skills for the greater good of destination promotion.

Among the 35 trainees that completed the programme, 13 were tour guides. Four tour guides also stood out in their video entries and analysis of platform data, attaining honorary certificates for Outstanding Content Creators on Tourism. – Prudence Lui

Mind matters
Safeguarding mental health has become a priority for Philippine travel and tourism stakeholders who are more susceptible to depression, stress, and anxiety brought about by the consequences of the prolonged lockdown.

The extent of their suffering is gleaned from Nikkei Asia’s Covid-19 Recovery Index (as of September 30, 2021), which ranks the Philippines as the worst among 121 countries in responding to the pandemic. Bloomberg’s Covid-19 Resilience Ranking classifies the Philippines as the worst place to be among 53 countries in containing the pandemic.

Addressing mental health concerns, the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) and stakeholders’ online meeting every Wednesday has evolved “into a period for retooling and relearning,” pep talks and motivational talks, said chief operating officer Anthonette Velasco-Allones.

The simple act of guesting clinical psychologist Joanna Herrera, who discussed mental health and mindfulness during one of the meetings, inspired and “(kept) hope alive in the hearts of our stakeholders, including tour operators and travel agents”.

In the predominantly Catholic country where people find solace in spirituality, TPB’s wellness and work-life integration programme for its staff has online fellowship “to keep the team connected” that includes a virtual holy Mass every first Friday of the month and bible studies, Velasco-Allones said.

A Think Talk initiative was also rolled out, offering refresher courses on writing, productivity, powerpoint presentation, Zoom set up, and work-from-home set up. A recent course featured a mindfulness session led by a yogi.

It is understood that the Department of Tourism (DoT) will be adopting most of the mental health safeguards being practised by TPB.

Besides the mental well-being focus, both the DoT and TPB have been using the past two years of travel downtime to improve the employability of the local travel and tourism community.

A five-year industry manpower development plan (2021-2025) was launched in June 2021 to retool, reskill and upskill the tourism workforce, which ensures a steady supply of trained manpower and addresses the challenges facing human capital development in the industry.

Various online and hybrid seminars have been held, including two editions of Tourism and Technology Forum in 2021, to empower, educate and improve the skills of Philippine tourism stakeholders.

Furthermore, several virtual job fairs were held in 2021 to help displaced tourism workers regain their livelihood and resume their career growth. – Rosa Ocampo

Business smarts
When it comes to supporting the local tourism sector through the pandemic, Singapore Tourism Board (STB)’s initiatives go far beyond financial support measures.

STB has worked with government agencies to roll out targeted initiatives to help tourism businesses tide through this challenging period.

With the aim of equipping tourism businesses and workers with new capabilities to prepare for the road ahead, and guide them in exploring various business models, STB has accelerated the pace of innovation and transformation, especially in manpower-dependent industries such as hospitality.

In partnership with the National Trades Union Congress and tourism associations, STB developed the Tourism Sector Capability Development Roadmap, which sets out longer-term plans to help local tourism businesses transform to meet the demands of post-Covid consumers.

Amid the pandemic, STB has also powered through with its Singapore Tourism Accelerator programme, which was launched in October 2019, and has since been extended until 2023.

The Accelerator acts as a platform for global tech companies to collaborate with tourism businesses in Singapore, driving innovation and future-proofing the tourism industry. Across its four cohorts, the programme has supported 34 tech companies to develop 45 industry solutions.

“In a Covid-resilient Singapore, our tourism businesses need technological innovations that reduce the friction of travelling to and around our city,” said Ong Huey Hong, executive director, industry technology transformation, STB.

Through the Accelerator programme, STB has supported various start-ups in the following areas: creating contactless transactions and experiences to boost consumer confidence, enhancing visitor experience with digital tools, real-time monitoring of tourism establishments to improve crowd management, and tapping technology to raise cleanliness and hygiene standards.

In addition, industry partners are also working with Accelerator start-ups to build their data management and analytics capabilities as well as technology capabilities to improve processes and reimagine product offerings to increase revenue opportunities.

To speed up the use of augmented reality experiences from pre- to post-trip, STB is developing a library of up to 1,000 3D assets over the next three to four years to supplement the current lack of such content in the market, and will make these assets available via the Tourism Information and Services Hub without additional charge, shared Ong.

As well, STB launched the Tour Experience Innovation Lab (TEIL) in March 2021 to encourage travel agents and tour operators to reimagine tour experiences in Singapore and provide more compelling and attractive offerings.

Under TEIL, STB works closely with travel agents and tour operators to provide mentorship and consultancy support, drive partnerships, support product development, and facilitate relevant regulatory approvals – to address gaps in Singapore’s tour landscape, while developing future-ready tours that can continue to draw both local and international visitors. – Cheryl Ong

Supporting hands