THE municipality of Oslob will invest in improving facilities for its whale shark tourism, said the mayor.
Fishermen who have turned boat guides asked the local government for more ticketing tables, a bigger waiting area for visitors and life jackets to cope with crowds that reach 800 on weekends, peaking at almost 1,500 on Easter Sunday.
Oslob Mayor Ronald Guaren acknowledged the need to improve accomodations for visitors.
“It’s embarrasing because they pay us and they experienced inconveniences,” Guaren said during Tuesday’s public hearing.
Guaren said the Oslob municipal government would spent P700,000 to build an orientation center for briefing guests.
At present, briefings ors are held in a tent in a private lot where tickets for whale watching, diving or snorkeling are issued and payment collected by town representatives.
A scheduled Apri 15 increase in tour rates drew mixed reactions .
Local tour guide Limbet Susada said she regrets the lack of consultation before the town council amended a local ordinance to increase rates.
“What they did last Tuesday was a public announcement, not consultation,” Susada said in Cebuano.
“Daghan ang gimahalan. Kami ang una maapektuhan. (Many find it too expensive. We will be the first ones to be affected),” he said.
Australian underwater videographer and photographer Mark Taylor said that swimming with and taking underwater images of the whale sharks was an invaluable experience.
“It should be more. The current rate is too affordable. I’m definitely going back, even with a higher rate,” he told Cebu Daily News.
Venezuelan Gladielis Torres said she would still come back to Oslob despite the rate hike because the “experience is worth it”.
May Fuentes, who came with her family from Davao City, said a rate increase was fine as long as amenities are improved.
“It depends. There should be improvement with their amenities, and it also depends on how high. 20% is fine, but if they increase it 50% then maybe we wont come back),” Fuertes said.
Mayor Guaren said Oslob earned P1 million since Oslob whale shark tours were managed by the municipality starting January.
At 300 tourists a day, CDN estimates the town earns P90,000 a day or P2.7 million a month.Town officials earlier said they get 200-300 visitors on weekdays and 700 to 800 on weekends.
Under a municipal ordinance, 60 percent of the income goes to the fisherfolk associations operating the tours, 30 percent to the town and 10 percent to barangay Tan-awan.
The mayor said ticket sales go to the town’s r general fund and is subject for review by the Commisison on Audit (COA).
“We are thinking of the long term sustainability of the whale shark tourism. But it’s difficult because the locals (stakeholders) are just worried about lack of guests,” Guaren said.