The recent inclusion of PPUR on the list of ” CNN’s Natural Wonders: the ultimate list of scenic splendor ” could be the long awaited shot in the arm to resuscitate a waning interest in what was, not too long ago, the rock star of tourist attractions in Palawan. Gone were the endless busloads to Sabang. Now on a fine day, tourists on a shoe string simply hire off direct to El Nido or Port Barton, by-passing Puerto Princesa’s crown jewel. I am certain my friends in the City Tourism Office or in the PPUR Management will dispute this observation with data and figures showing increase in visitor arrivals. Let it be. But figures don’t tell all of a tourist’s story, and in fact, it may even put us in a blinder of complacency. And before we know it, they are all gone to other destinations. Perhaps, we could learn a thing or two from the way the bucolic town of Loboc in Bohol is running their now famous River Cruise. Frankly, there is not much to see in the cruise itself, and the river is not that magnificent as often pictured to be. But what makes the cruise attractive is the feeling of importance which the town gives to every tourist. It starts the moment you enter their spacious and air-conditioned terminal where the town’s employees personally attend to your every concern and whim. There are also uniform guides at every turn of the covered pathway leading to the pier and to the boat itself where a sumptuous meal awaits you – with live music and a fiesta atmosphere. For P450.00, the one – hour cruise looks like a bargain.
Loboc officials certainly know the mind set of tourists. Reasonable price, a seamless permitting system, modern terminal and a tourism-minded staff, these are the competitive edges of Lobo which have drawn endless droves of tourists to its River Cruise.
Tourists, as we know by now, are a prickly lot who want to be pampered for the least cost to their pockets. That makes tourism a very personalized industry. It is mighty difficult, but that is what drives many local economies and brings food on the table. You only have to see the transformation of El Nido and Coron from its halcyon days to what it had become today. Tourism, is indeed, our best hope for a better future. And at such a dizzying speed!
And by the way, most Board members were annoyed by last week’s Palawan News story of a humdrum SP session which was adjourned due to a lack of quorum. Records show that Board members Sharon Abiog-Onda, Cherry Pie Acosta, Marivic Roxas were in Bohol attending the Visayas Congress of the Philippine Board Members League (PBMLP). I, too, was there for the same conference and for the national board meeting of the league where I represent MIMAROPA as Regional Chair. Board member Bon Ponce de Leon was in Coron conducting a public hearing of the Ways and Means Committee while BM Prince Demaala was also there for the PCL Provincial Convention. I do not know who went to Cuyo for the town fiesta, as mentioned by the news writer. Everyone else is in Puerto Princesa – unless, of course, BM Bon has developed the special gift of bilocation that is, being in two places at the same time! I remember quite well what the late Max Soliven told aspiring writers: if you can’t write well, at least, get your facts right.