Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Taste of Bohol Tourism

Two things I learned from my visit to Bohol and Panglao last week: first, Bohol can be an expensive place for a tourist; and second, as far as tourism is concerned, Bohol seems to have its act together. I suspect that one follows the other, that the cost is at least justified by the level of organization. Of course, I couldn't help but make comparisons with tourism in Dumaguete.

First, the cost. It's cheap enough to get to Bohol from Cebu. Ferry companies are striving to outdo each other in price reduction. Right now, the lowest price stands at P400 for a round trip ticket. Compare this with a P400 one-way ticket from Dumaguete to Bohol and, well, perhaps you'll wonder whether there's anything amiss. I do believe it actually costs the same to get to from Dumaguete to Bohol via Cebu as it does to go directly to Bohol. Why is that, I wonder?

But the gouging starts once you get to Bohol. From Bohol to Panglao, taxis will charge an exorbitant P400 one-way. Tricycles aren't much better, with one-way rates anywhere from P150 to P300. If the transportation rates are that high, can the hotel room rates be far behind? Fortunately for us, we had reasonable rooms at only P750 per person. Food, well, food came to around P200 to P300 per person per meal. Ouch, talk about tourist traps!

On our last day we went through the usual Bohol tourist route. Chocolate Hills, Loboc River, Baclayon Church, the Legaspi-Sikatuna monument, the hanging bridge, the man-made forest, and, of course, the tarsiers. My friend negotiated for a car to take us around for eight hours at a cost of P2,000. Still a little pricey, though not too much. All the same, I was fairly impressed that the driver had the sightseeing routine down pat. Not just him, too, but several others like him as I eavesdropped on other tour guides over the ooh'ing and ah'ing of Korean tourists.

Which brings me to the second point, organization. Bohol might be expensive but it boasts of some degree of organization, and that, perhaps, is why they can charge so much. Our driver struck me as fairly ordinary and none-too-bright, but he knew where to take us and what bits of information to highlight. When I complimented him on his knowledge, he said that he was part of a tourism association and they had to know about the usual sights. New drivers had to go through an orientation course until they got it right. And so they take tourists through all the usual.

Now isn't that a sensible idea? I wonder if their Dumaguete counterparts can say the same.

It's not just the tourist associations, though. All of Bohol seems geared towards tourism. The Tagbilaran terminal has a tourism information desk (though it seems oddly misplaced inside the predeparture area); and the city has a prominent tourism office right across its biggest mall. The tourism information desk gives out large and colorful maps and brochures identifying the things to see and do around Bohol. And Bohol is expanding its museum, prior to handing over the reins to the National Museum.

It's not perfect, mind you, but it does give a sense of preparedness and welcome to tourists. Now if only the locals wouldn't bilk the visitors so much.

Let's run this quick checklist against Dumaguete and Negros Oriental: (1) Do we have a prominent tourism desk stationed at the port of entry? (2) Do we have integrated maps and brochures that tell the tourists where to go? (3) Do we have a standard itinerary to present to our guests? These are simple enough to put together, but it seems they can go a long way to promoting tourism in our own province.

5 comments:

  1. I'm also wishing that Dumaguete tourism gets more organized. We were victims of misinformation last summer and we lost precious time because of it. I asked two different hotel front desk staff (1 in the evening, and another in the morning) for the schedule of AIR CONDITIONED Ceres buses going to Bacolod. They said it was every 30 minutes. Not so. It was more like every 3 hours. We missed the first bus and as a result we had a really short stay in Bacolod. I expected hotel staff to know that simple information. We arrived in the city via ferry from Cebu and I don't think I saw any tourist information in the pier. We got by because I was familiar with the place, but what about first-timers and "walk-in" tourists?

    I've been to Dumaguete 4 times, love the place and will keep coming back, but I hope for better tourist information. Nakakahiya naman sa mga isinasama ko. :-)

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Lea. I'll forward it to the relevant people. And they better take action...grrrr!

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  3. Something to look out for: misinformation. As a new resident of dumaguete, I find that people either: 1)say there isn't any (when they just don't know) 2)give very vague answers that would only be clear to residents. Dumaguete is a city pretending to be a town (or is it vice-versa).

    Chances are: the hotel staff didnt get properly trained. NON-aircon buses of Ceres is every 30 minutes. There are only (2)AIRCON buses in dumaguete going to bacolod via mabinay, all leaving around noon.
    There is the option to go via bayawan (but I have never taken this route)

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  4. I brought a visitor who just flew in from Canada a few weeks back to Chin Loong and we just stayed at the open area outside to enjoy the nice sea breeze. A few minutes later a beggar came to us and asked for alms. My visitor gave the little girl a few coins. Then a few minutes later another came to us asking for alms again and my visitor again gave her a few coins. A few minutes later another one came and It was just too embarrassing so I told the beggar to go away.

    It was passed 8pm already and dinner was served and we started eating, a few minutes later a garbage truck stopped at corner to collect garbage. It took 2 minutes for them to collect all the garbage nearby. The smell was so bad we had to cancel our dinner. I looked around to see how the other customers reacted but it seems that they we immune to the bad smell.(hehehe) We ordered a cold bottle of beer instead.

    The following evening we went to Qiosko past 9pm and the garbage truck passed by again to collect garbage. Even though we were inside we could still smell the stinky garbage. It was good the we already finished eating.

    Because of that experience, my visitor would never forget her trip to Dumaguete.

    I just hope these officials will take care of the beggars and reschedule the garbage collection if they really want to promote tourism and impress visitors here in Oriental Negros.

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