May 18, 2024

I attended the first of a series of webinars held Oct. 22 on the invitation of Dr. Jenny Hombrebueno-Panchal, a Baguio girl, who is now a professor at the James Cook University in Singapore.
She is a multi-awarded student who worked her way up to her masters and doctorate degrees in Australia and New Zealand. She is a dynamic leader, a brilliant and determined one. A role model for women mentors of today.
The webinar was sponsored by the Asean Tourism Research Association (ATRA) in coordination with the James Cook University and Taylor University.
The webinar delved on the topic “Story telling in tourism – The power of narratives in revitalizing tourism in the ASEAN region.”
The webinar had over 800 participants from all over the world spearheaded by ATRA President Puvaneswaran Kunasek and moderated by Devi Kausar.
The first speaker was Gianna Moscardo, a professor of the James Cook University and her subject was “Imagining new tourism stories for destination resilience.” Interesting to note was the fragility of our environment in this pandemic. The resilience is really how to survive and prepare for the shocks brought about by these new times, because they are here to stay.
There is a shift from international to local travel involving its communities. We now focus on the local market and creating new interesting stories will help convince smaller groups and tourists from our neighboring provinces to stay longer, to spend more and probably to have repeat travels with families. We need to convince our visitors or tourists that tourism is essential in spite of the risk and that the emerging travel trends are going towards the use of wider spaces like trekking, communing with nature, and probably some sports and family-oriented travels.
Tourism is indeed storytelling. It is how you make your story interesting that counts. No need to compare your strategies with others, just devise your own. Each destination has its story to tell. No grand buildings and intellectual leaders needed here, just good strategies. Just be charismatic and effective.
The second speaker was Gary Bowerman from the private sector. He is the director of Check-in-Asia and the founder of Asia Travel Re: Set. He is from the United Kingdom, who moved to Shanghai, China and is now in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
His topic, “Traditional travel storytelling driver Q4 2020,” states that the focus on tourism nowadays is on safety, sanitization, and risk management.
I now understand why my daughter, Reggie, and the hotel she is working for put so much emphasis on pictures of personnel in PPEs sanitizing and spraying every nook and corner of the hotel. It focused on hygienic and safe staycations.
Covid-19 invaded tourism and everyone should conform to the new norm or the “new normal.” Hygienic staycations are in. Bowerman explained shifting expectations and the “small bubbles” or limited movements or fragmented movements in tourism. We are now into less of the crowded destinations which were the norm before, into more space oriented travels.
According to research, planners use the term “tourist bubble” to describe a geographic area in a destination within which visitors operate. An aha moment there. When Baguio opened to tourists this month to visitors from Region 1, the tourism sector was creating a tourism bubble for just a small geographic area which will gradually increase like a ripple. Bowerman was right, domestic tourism played second role to international tourism and is now taking the centerstage, finally.
The drivers or “triggers” for 2021 are staycations, according to Bowerman, who is much involved with the travel sector.
We must be hopeful since the pandemic created a huge dent in the tourism industry. He also talked about the new tourism marketers and new ways of promotions – the power of the Internet and social media.
The last speaker was Valentino Luis, who talked about “Visual storytelling is a method and a marketing strategy.” He said the human brain processes information 60,000 times faster through visuals. Videographers should focus on the experience. A lot of research goes into visual storytelling. You should be able to make a good script. No matter how beautiful your visuals, if it is not complemented by beautiful storytelling or script, it does not make an impact. Live streaming is also the “in” thing, and everything is related to the travel or tourism bubble. Who are your target audience? Make your story according to their interest.
As for me, who is more interested in how to promote our local museum, the answer was to focus on items that can tell beautiful stories. It is no longer just a matter of showing your collections. You have to weave a beautiful story and dovetail it with experience.
It’s amazing how tourism has evolved in this pandemic. But we are all hopeful and positive that new trends and ideas will still emerge. Keep positive and stay safe everyone.
Since it’s Oct. 25 today, let me greet my good friend Janet Lu, a happy birthday and likewise to Sita Yan and Rannjie, happy birthday.