ILOILO City – Tourists who will be barred from Boracay Island, which will be closed off to visitors for six months for a much-needed rehabilitation, may head to this city and Guimaras.
The capital of Iloilo province and the nearby island province are getting ready to become alternative destinations when the closure of the world-famous beach starts on April 26.
Their respective local governments are drawing up plans – including new tour offers, improved visitor service and spruced-up sites – to attract Boracay-bound tourists.
Mayor Jose Espinosa III expects some tourists, especially those who booked accommodations in Boracay during the closure period, to troop to this city, Western Visayas’s regional center.
Espinosa disclosed that he considers pushing through with his plan to set up “night markets” in the metro.
The city government is beautifying public plazas and making sure all street lights are functional and dark areas well-lighted, he said.
Restaurants are being inspected, too. Their surroundings and utensils must be clean and presentable, said the mayor.
“Any change in their operations that health inspectors find necessary must be applied,” Espinosa said.
The city is home to the Iloilo Esplanade, one of the longest walkways in the Philippines.
The Esplanade has become a popular site for walking, jogging, open-air dining, water sports, and other recreational activities.
Esplanade I – Phase 1, 1.2 kilometers long – was formally opened on Aug. 19, 2012 as part of efforts to rehabilitate the Iloilo River and enhance its tourism and economic potentials. This has expanded to Phases 2 and 3.
Moreover, the city offers tourists local food and delicacies, and heritage houses, buildings and churches for tours.
Over in Guimaras, Provincial Tourism Officer Liberty Ferrer said they have been meeting with resorts and lodging associations as they prepare for more tourists coming in.
“We are doing an inventory of rooms to determine our capacity to receive tourists for overnight visits,” she said, adding that they aim to make visitors “stay longer.”
The island province has 668 rooms in accommodation establishments accredited by the Department of Tourism and endorsed by local government units, said Ferrer.
Visitors may choose from seven “tourism circuits” – agri-eco, island hopping, sightseeing, biking, culture and heritage, research and education, and experiential tourism – said Ferrer.
The Provincial Tourism Office, the DOT, the Land Transportation Office, and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board will meet with the local transport sector next week to discuss how to legalize transport operations.
Among the modes of transportation in Guimaras are jeepneys, tricycles, multi-cabs, and private vans.
Moreover, Ferrer said her office will endorse to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan their proposed tourism ordinance for adoption. “This will serve as the bible of the tourism industry,” she said.
Guimaras has not yet received travel or accommodation bookings due to the impending closure of Boracay Island.
Its current bookings were related to the Mango National Congress and the Manggahan Festival in May, and the visit of the Provincial Board Members’ League of the Philippines.
Tourists will not miss Boracay when they visit Guimaras, Ferrer said.
Aside from its various destinations, guests of the island province will be assured of “peace and order and tranquility,” she said. (With a report from Philippine News Agency/PN)