TOURISM stakeholders are calling out the Department of Tourism (DOT) on its new partnership with ride-hailing app Grab Philippines, which they said gives the company unfair advantage over accredited tourist transport companies and tour guides.
Aileen Clemente, president of Rajah Travel Corp., told the BusinessMirror, “I really feel this is a big mistake, especially considering that the DOT mentioned they conducted a one-day training [with Grab drivers] on the Filipino brand of service excellence (FBSE) and they will be tour-guiding already. The current accredited tour guides train for more than just a day and know how to curate tours. How can we expect that from a one-day training on the FBSE?”
She also pointed out, “These Grab drivers are NOT ACCREDITED tourist transport drivers—such drivers undergo strict standards for that. They don’t even drive DOT-accredited transportation. This will not sit very well with accredited tour guides and tourist transport drivers whose job will be taken over just like that.” (Emphasis hers.)
Under the GrabTours Manila project, passengers can book a 5-hour tour around major destinations in Manila via Grab. According to the DOT, “the drivers, who will also undergo briefing on the tourist sites, will double as tour guides during the trip,” picking up and dropping off the tourists at their hotels. (See, “DOT partners with Grab for city tours pilot run,” in the BusinessMirror, June 6, 2023.) None of the major tourism stakeholders associations appeared to have been consulted by the DOT before the project went on a pilot run.
Tourists’ safety at risk
Tourism leaders underscored that many tour guides and tourist transport services have yet to fully recover from the pandemic, so the DOT-Grab project will take potential income away from these stakeholders. They also claimed the project puts tourists at risk because Grab’s partner-vehicles are “old.”
“None of us knew about this,” said a tourism stakeholder, who requested anonymity. “Even the tour guides are meeting to discuss their moves kasi nga aagawan sila ng trabaho [their work will be stolen],” he noted.
Per DOT’s website, there are 54 accredited tourist land transport operators in the National Capital Region (NCR). Grab is not on that list. The website also shows close to 200 accredited tour guides in the NCR.
Arthur Lopez, president of the Philippine Hotel Owners Association, said most hotels already have tieups and contracts with tourist transport companies. “It’s not easy for them, because they have to get accredited first [from the DOT] before they are able to operate. Is Grab going to be accredited?”
‘What’s next? Angkas tour guides?’
He added, “Our partner transport companies have to insure their passengers into the millions of pesos to protect the hotels from lawsuits, so they can carry our guests. Grab’s passenger insurance is probably just P5,000 on a third-party liability.”
Further, he said Grab’s partner vehicles are old—“those Mitsubishi Adventures are about 10 years old!” —which can break down and affect the tourist’s experience. Under DOT accreditation rules, tourist transport operators have to have a fleet of at least 10 vehicles, all brand-new, current models. Lopez noted that most tourist transport vehicles servicing PHOA member-hotels are, at most, two years old.
According to Grab’s presentation to the DOT, 30 six-seater vehicles like the Toyota Innova and Avanza will be used for the city tours. Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco inspected a vehicle that will be used in the project after a recent meeting with Grab executives.
Clemente, a former vice chair of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, cited Section 40 of Republic Act 9593 (Tourism Act of 2009), which specifically points to the value of accreditation: “Only accredited enterprises shall be beneficiaries of promotional, training, and other programs of the Department and its attached agencies and corporations.”
She noted, “This project doesn’t seem to be adhering to that [provision] at all. What’s next? Angkas tour guides?”