THE Boracay Women’s Producer Cooperative, which makes Pinay Boracay specialty soap shampoo, tea, and other organic products, used to struggle to spread the word about its items.
“Today, thanks to social media, more people now know about us and our products,” said Angelyn K. Roda, general manager of BWPC, whose specialty soaps include gumamela-infused “gwapamela” soap, and variants with moringa, papaya, and oregano.
Technology has played a significant role in BWPC since its early days. According to Roda, their chairman Desiree Segovia actually first had the idea of making soap after watching a video on YouTube.
“We use social media and chat apps like Messenger to promote our products and to talk to our customers,” said Roda. And because Smart’s signal is strong in the island, posting about BWPC products is a breeze for Roda and her fellow members.
“Whether we want to watch videos on YouTube, post photos on Facebook or send messages on Messenger, Smart has really helped us a lot in our business,” Roda said.
BWPC is among the local businesses benefiting from PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications Inc.’s (Smart) improved connectivity in Boracay, which has recently been reopened after rehabilitation.
Since then, the island has seen the return of many tourists, among them travel blogger Finn Snow, who has been based in the Philippines for the past two years.
“I first learned about the Philippines through social media and YouTube,” said Snow, whose travel vlogs feature both popular tourist spots like Boracay as well as lesser-known, off-the-beaten-path places like Balabac in northern Palawan.
A Smart subscriber, Snow said his phone has been his lifeline over the years. “The internet plays a huge part in my work. If I can’t upload, I can’t work,” he said. “With Smart, I can upload videos and answer emails -- just through my phone.”
Local biz boost
As more local and foreign tourists return to Boracay, local shops on the island have begun feeling the boost in their earnings, as business picks up the pace.
Sheila Mae Oczon, who works at G&C Medicine Center, said sales are brisk at their pharmacy, especially since they also sell load aside from medicine.
“When the island was closed for rehabilitation, we had only a few customers. Now that it’s open again, more people now come to buy medicine and load from our store,” said Oczon.
Oczon said they serve both local and foreign tourists.
“With the internet more accessible, tourists can easily share the beauty of Boracay to the world,” she said.
Tech for sustainable tourism
Since the island’s reopening, the local government’s thrust has been for sustainable tourism in Boracay. For environment advocates like actress Antonette Taus, who founded non-profit organization Communities Organized for Resource Allocation (Cora), technology also plays a big part in increasing awareness about sustainable tourism.
“With social media, we can show the world that sustainable tourism is possible,” said Taus. “Everything we post online is powerful. As soon as you type those words, or post that photo -- you have to think of how they can affect others. In the end, I believe that is what sustainability is all about -- caring about the effects of your actions.”
Smart is set to further expand and upgrade its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network on Boracay Island to empower tourists, residents and local businesses in the Philippines’ premier tourist destination.
To date, Smart has already deployed LTE to 83 percent of its Boracay sites. Of these LTE sites, 80 percent have been further upgraded to LTE-Advanced, which gives customers an even faster mobile data experience.
These network upgrades in Boracay are part of PLDT and Smart’s efforts to bring world-class connectivity across the country. This year, PLDT and Smart are undertaking another massive capital expenditures program by allocating up to P78.4 billion budget this year, P20 billion higher than the previous year, to push further the companies’ already significant network advantage.
For these network upgrades, PLDT and Smart have been cited for network superiority by third-party organizations like Ookla, Opensignal, Tutela, and P3 in their respective crowdsource-based studies on internet services in the country.
Ookla’s Q1-Q2 and Q3-Q4 2018 reports found that PLDT and Smart are the country’s fastest fixed and mobile networks, while Smart has consistently led in terms of 4G speeds in studies by Opensignal since 2017. More recently, Smart won four out of five categories in Opensignal’s Mobile Experience Awards – Video Experience, Download Speed, Upload Speed and Latency.
On the other hand, Canadian crowd-sourced mobile data company Tutela said Smart users were twice as likely to experience "excellent" data connections, which are needed for heavy data uses like video viewing, whereas Germany-based P3 insight GmbH, mobile network benchmarking leader, also said in a recent report that Smart offers the country’s best download speeds. (PR)