Rafting industry still hurting after Oro blast-A A +A
Friday, August 23, 2013
ALMOST a month after the July 26 bombing in a mall here has passed but some players in the local rafting industry are still hurting from the incident, although hopes remain high that business will pick up as the city’s annual fiesta approaches.
Rafting activities are on a slowdown for some companies as bookings have been cancelled in the weeks following the attack that killed eight people.
“We’ve had some bookings cancelled and it has affected some of our members,” said Vitalino Espulgar, president of Oro Association of Rafters (OAR), and owner of Golden Friendship Whitewater Rafting.
When asked for an estimated figure of the rafters’ financial losses due to the incident, Espulgar was not able to give the exact figure but estimated it could be in the hundreds of thousands of pesos.
OAR is the name of the group of six rafting companies operating in the city, with Golden Friendship Whitewater Rafting, Red Rafts, Great White Water Tours, CDO Bugsay River Rafting, 1st Rafting Adventure, and Kagay Whitewater Rafting as members.
For Rex Tapongot, manager of Red Rafts, they have been experiencing the slackening of business since 2011 when the killer Typhoon Sendong ravaged Cagayan de Oro and rendered the city’s main river unfit for rafting for days.
“Sales have decreased since Sendong pa,” Tapongot said, adding that before they could book around 200 clients a month but now it has dwindled to an average of 50 persons.
Even Sepulgar’s own company has not been earning for weeks as it is undergoing an upgrade.
Two rafting operators, 1st Rafting and CDO Bugsay, however, did not really feel the effects of the bombing since they said that more people still prefer to ride the rapids over other outdoor adventures.
Ezzard Kim Domingo, General Manager of 1st Rafting, said they have not lost any business but bookings actually increased as the city fiesta nears.
“There was no cancellation in our bookings,” Domingo said, “although a lot of our clients are asking if it’s safe to come here, and we assure them that it’s okay to visit the city.”
The bulk of 1st Rafting’s clientele usually come to paddle during the peak months of April and May, and August to December.
So, for this month, Domingo said they expect the number of customers to exceed their average monthly rafting enthusiasts of about 700 persons.
“It’s the fiesta season, and our booking has gone up. It’s a given,” he said.
In the case of CDO Bugsay, their “suki” (repeat customers) from Metro Manila and Cebu make its business continue to pick up despite the slump.
CDO Bugsay’s marketing officer Reynold Domingo admitted that they are not actually losing as old clients keep coming back and even bringing with them their friends and relatives.
He said it’s the repeat customers who are actually helping them convince potential clients to visit the city and try the rafting adventure.
“On weekends we are doing good, bibo man gihapon,” he added.
Espulgar said it is a standard operating procedure for OAR members to post advisories on their respective websites as soon as there is an incident in Mindanao even if it doesn't happen in Cagayan de Oro.
“It’s the rafting company’s initiative to post an advisory to assure their clients whether it’s safe to go rafting or not,” he said.
Espulgar said it is expected that operators would also advise rafting enthusiasts to forgo their booking, especially in cases where the state weather bureau Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration predicts an oncoming tropical storm or typhoon that passes through the city.
“When Pagasa declares signal number 1 or higher, operators must cancel any scheduled rafting run. It’s automatic,” Espulgar said.
Espulgar said OAR members will meet this week to discuss plans and strategies to improve the rafting industry in the city.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 23, 2013.