By Minerva BC Newman
CEBU CITY – The number of tourists allowed to swim and/or mingle with whale sharks will be limited to 800 per day by the Oslob Technical Working Group.
Cebu Provincial Tourism Officer Boboi Costas said the decision was reached in close consultation with the local guides and the local government unit of Oslob over the weekend.
Costas told the Manila Bulletin that the move is part of the local government unit’s initiative to ensure sustainable tourism, which has spurred economic activity and generated jobs in the municipality.
Costas said that a multi-sector tourism stakeholder group composed of the Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), tour and transport operators, hotel/resort owners, academe, LAMAVE, Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation (CCEF), Smart Communications and the provincial government, agreed to develop and create an industry that is future-proofed, sustainable and stimulates prosperity for the locals.
He said the Cebu Provincial Tourism Office wants to manage the Oslob whale shark tourism industry through a scientific approach by collaborating with scientific organizations such as LAMAVE, USC Marine Bio and CCEF.
Costas explained that all strategies must be through evidence-based studies.
Costas went on to say that Oslob must have a high-value, low impact type of tourism because
its product is unique, it commands a higher price.
“True, whale shark provisioning in Oslob is frowned upon but we stop the finger-pointing instead we work together and manage its negative impacts with a scientific approach,” Costas added.
Initially the reduction of visitors will affect the income, but there are strategies which would reduce the number of visitors but keep the income to the maximum, and these models are used in successful destinations around the world, Costas told the Manila Bulletin.