Tourist arrivals in Guimaras island drops by 73% in August and September this year, according to the Guimaras Provincial Tourism Office. The drop is due to the recent sea mishap involving three capsized motorboats along the Iloilo Guimaras Strait that resulted to 31 deaths. Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism Region VI, in a bid to improve tourist arrivals, reassures tourists that it is safe to travel.
“We will reposition Guimaras as a safe destination. We need to assure tourists that traveling to Guimaras is still safe. But we have to get the commitment of all stakeholders,” states Atty. Helen Catalbas, Director of the Department of Tourism Region VI, during an inter-agency dialogue.
Among those present are representatives from the Philippine Coast Guard, Maritime Industry Authority, LGU of Guimaras, as well as tour operators, resorts, and hotels.
“What Guimaras is currently getting are independent or individual travellers, small groups. Gone are the big groups of tourists crossing the Iloilo Strait to visit the island in buses and vans,” adds Catalbas.
It can be recalled that MARINA has imposed strict regulations to motorboat operators serving Iloilo-Guimaras passengers. Regulations imposed include removal of tarpaulins or shade, sea travel from 6am to 6pm only, and mandatory life jacket throughout the trip.
“With a lot of events and conventions in Iloilo City, Guimaras has to be ready to accommodate tourists. Whether we admit it or not, whether we realize it or not, Guimaras is one of the attractions of Iloilo City. They (visitors) come here for events and they hope to cross to Guimaras which is only 15 minutes away,” Catalbas emphasizes.
Marina has also ordered the phase-out of wooden motorboats – and replaced with aluminum or fiberglass. On the other hand, operators has to consider the costs. Moreover, Guimaras Governor Samuel Gumarin and Congresswoman Lucille Nava considers the economic impact of the phasing out of wooden motorboats.
It can also be recalled that Ilonggo son Franklin Drilon is lobbying for the construction of the Iloilo-Guimaras bridge. However, Guimaras still has a long way to go before the bridge will be finished. Read more: Guimaras a hard sell?