Quick Response Codes or simply known as “QR Codes” are barcode-like images commonly found on billboards and on print ads. Using a smartphone with a compatible QR Code app, passersby can easily access additional information about a product or a service by capturing the QR Code with their phone camera.
In a developing country such as the Philippines, however, QR codes have found a less conventional, yet more meaningful use. With a little help from the Department of Tourism (DOT), wireless leader Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), and travel website MyCebu.ph, domestic tourism is going online in real time.
In December 2011, the Pari-An district in Cebu City officially became the first area in the Philippines to feature QR Codes.
Signages which contain unique QR codes have been placed on various sites in Pari-an, thus enabling tourists to view additional information via MyCebu.ph. The Colon St. monument in particular offers tourists a glimpse at how the first major thoroughfare in the Philippines looked like during its heyday.
Another noteworthy application of the QR Code is with the Jesuit House which is also located in Pari-An. Inconspicuously hidden inside a warehouse named “Ho Tong Hardware”, the QR Code can easily reveal that, like the Philippines as a whole, there is more to the establishment than meets the eye.
Smart’s QR Code project has recently gained the government’s approval as Cebu City, through the efforts of South District Councilor Roberto “Bob” Cabarrubias, passed a resolution recognizing it as the first of its kind in the Philippines. Its acceptance into mainstream status has paved the way for its planned expansion to nearby Lapu-Lapu City. The project is also being strongly supported by Cebu City Councilor Margaret Osmena.
Complementing the QR Codes are two free electronic guidebooks which aim to share information on Cebu to both international and local audiences. These are A Guide To Sinulog 2012 and A Guide To Cebu 2012
Sinulog is Cebu City’s grand festival held every third Sunday of January which celebrates the island’s acceptance of Christianity. It centers on worshipping the Santo Nino (the Child Christ) through prayer and revelry and is touted to be the Philippines’ “Festival of Festivals.”
The guidebook to Sinulog has recently been updated to showcase photos and information on the winners of the Sinulog dance and photo competitions.
Both the Sinulog and Cebu guidebooks are downloadable in .ePub and .mobi formats from MyCebu.ph and can be viewed in most mobile devices using free reading applications such as Aldiko and Stanza. To date, the publications have tallied a combined total of over 1,000 downloads across several operating systems.
True to its identity as a leader in innovation however, Smart continues to spur tourism in the Queen City of the South with two additional electronic guidebooks in the works. First is a food guide which will be made in collaboration with eskinasugbo.com and the other, a business guide entitled A Guide to Doing Business in Cebu 2012 which will also be made in conjunction with local businesses, government agencies and officials, and by MyCebu.ph editors Max and Marlen Limpag.
Only the beginning
According to Smart spokesperson Ramon Isberto, the Cebu electronic tourism projects is a great start to what Smart and the DOT envision to be the future of domestic tourism in the Philippines.
“Many Filipinos already know that everything is more fun in the Philippines. With these high-tech tools, we will be able to show a broader audience just exactly what we mean by that,” Isberto said.
Smart supports the Department of Tourism’s “It’s more fun in the Philippines” campign. The company helps promote the agency’s efforts with the help of Infoboard, a web-based SMS broadcast service that facilitates information exchange and communication between the tourism department and its publics.