We conducted a survey to see if tourists would be interested in going on an artisanal fishing boat to see and swim with Manta rays, what they would expect and how much they would be prepared to pay. In these cases you want a wide range of opinions and views and we believe this is what we got.
The surveys were handed out in the town of Mancora in northern Peru. Mancora is a very popular tourist town in northern Peru. Here, souvenir stalls still sell turtle shells, shark jaws and framed sea creatures such as sea horses, sea stars, urchins and shells. These types of gifts are quite abundant.
Some surveys were left in hostels, hotels and the local dive centre. Many of the accommodations were happy to help by giving out the surveys to their guests, but soon we realised that some of these promises were a bit loose. One hotel promoting it’s exceptional eco issues was very excited to begin with but after going back a few times over the weeks they pulled a number of blank surveys from under their forgotten paperwork. Finally, we got to survey 42 people.
Even though we were focusing the surveys at tourists, Mancora locals also filled out our surveys. They also seemed interested in the project. On the occasions that we were present while they answered the surveys, we found that almost everyone asked, ‘Aren’t Manta Rays the ones that killed Steve Irwin?’ We corrected them but were still surprised at the amount of people that thought this. 33% of interviewees thought that mantas were dangerous, yet curiously, 4 people out of these stated they would still be interested in swimming with them! There definitely needs to be more education on these wonderful animals in this area.
Further questions from our survey revealed a large market potential, where approximately 65% of the interviewees stated that they would be interested to go out on an authentic artisanal fishing boat from northern Peru and 71% had snorkelled before. 93% mentioned that they were interested in environmental conservation and 74% thought it was important to support local businesses while on holiday. Considering the little that those surveyed knew about Manta rays, 74% said that they wanted to learn something new on a day trip. This also gives us scope to introduce an important education factor.
Questions related to expected prices, expected duration of the trip, among others, were also asked, and we’re now using this information to outline a marketing strategy for this service. In conclusion, this survey showed that tourists are interested but there has to be more education on mantas and that they expect a certain level of comfort on the boat, but not necessarily luxury.
After the surveys, we organised meetings with the local coastal authorities in northern Peru to get their support for the project. We wanted to show them what we want to achieve and how we will go about it. First we went to IMARPE (Sea Institute of Peru), in the town of Santa Cruz to speak to Elmer Ordinola, head of the Research Lab. They do research on marine species and fisheries in and around north Peru waters.
The next meeting was with Erlin Jimenez, Director of DIRCETUR (Regional Direction for Commerce and Tourism). He’s in charge of looking after Tourism Businesses in north Peru. He was excited and enthusiastic about our vision. He said he would be very interested in getting involved with the project and even advised as to who we should talk to next.
We next went to see Manuel Feijoo, Director of PRODUCE (Regional Direction of Production). PRODUCE regulates and documents catches in this area and look after the fishermen. They offered their help in anything we might need, and offered a space where the meetings and workshops can take place.
The last meeting was with the Department of Natural Resources of the Regional Government. We met with María del Carmen Tapia, and she gave us the contact of the Department of Economic Development, which was very interested in helping us and gave us their support.
With these authorities on board, plus an assessment of the local market, we have the go ahead to start...