Online promotions and word of mouth referrals through social networks helped a community in Aloguinsan build its eco-tourism project into what it is now: a sustainable project that has become a benchmark for other places embarking on a similar program.
Jomelyn Manigos, vice president of the Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association (BAETA), stressed the importance of the Internet in spreading word on businesses like theirs during the launch of the “Panalo Ang May Alam” Communities by Talk ‘N Text and Smart Communications, Inc. in Boljoon, Cebu.
Manigos said marketing is about providing information and the Internet is where people get information from nowadays. She said BAETA was able to grow largely because of word of mouth through social networks. She also cited the importance of the Internet in educating people. The group has a Facebook page where people can contact them to book tours.
Award-winning eco-tourism program
Many now know about Aloguinsan and their tours because of the Internet, Manigos told MyCebu.ph in an interview.
BAETA is the group behind the award-winning eco-tourism program centered on the Bojo River. The group was organized by the local government in collaboration with Boboi Costas of Grassroots Travel.
During the event on Tuesday in the Boljoon Sports Complex, Smart and Talk ‘N Text introduced Internet.org to members of partner communities from Aloguinsan, Boljoon, Samboan, and Santander.
Boljoon Mayor Merlou Derama said people now understand the importance of social media and the Internet and their use in boosting tourism.
Connecting to mobile Internet
Representatives from Smart and Talk ‘N Text demonstrated to those present how to connect to the Internet using feature phones and smartphones. They also walked them through connecting for free via the Internet.org program, which is being implemented in partnership with Facebook.
Internet.org is a program that offers free Internet access to a group of websites that provide important information. In the Philippines, Smart, Talk ‘N Text, and Sun subscribers can get free access to 24 websites, among them Accuweather, ESPN, Inquirer.net, Interaksyon, JobStreet.com, OLX.ph, Philstar.com, Rappler, Spin.ph, Wattpad, wikiHow, and Wikipedia.
“A groundbreaking app, the Internet.org provides Filipinos with free access to an initial list of 24 informative and useful websites, including Facebook and Messenger, so that more are able to benefit from the wealth of information available through the mobile Internet,” Smart said in a press statement.
The launch on Tuesday is the first in the country, company officials said during the event.
‘Panalo ang may alam’
The program’s rallying call “Panalo ang may alam” (loose translation: knowledge wins) stresses the importance of information in a global knowledge economy.
“These communities are admirable for their own panalo or winning stories, and we see them achieving more as they learn to harness the power of free online information and services through TNT and the Internet.org app by Facebook,” TNT marketing head Cherish Canizares-Tupaz said in a press statement.
Even in the purchase of airtime load, more people are buying for Internet connectivity, said Glenn Loayon, Smart Communications retail sales manager for the region. He said this shows Filipinos are increasingly going online.
He said the event was “just the start” and that Smart and Talk ‘N Text would engage with the communities in helping them do business. He cited as example one of the company’s retailers who is now a millionaire after 10 years of selling airtime load.
Apart from lessons on going online, the program also covers “business training specially designed according to their needs,” Smart said.
The partner communities were also given connectivity and retailer packages to help them in their respective programs. The packages include a laptop, a pocket Wi-Fi, printer, and Android phones.
“Through this unique program, TNT hopes to assist deserving communities in creating new opportunities and reaping the many real-life benefits of mobile Internet. For example, they can easily promote their products and services on Facebook and coordinate with peers through Messenger,” said Canizares-Tupaz in the Smart statement.
TNT launched Internet.org with Facebook last month, which is the first in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, the company said. Facebook director for global operator partnerships Markku Makelainen said during the launch that Internet.org is a tool to “address the barriers that prevent people from connecting and joining the knowledge economy.”