ILOILO City – Boracay in Malay, Aklan lost over one million tourists due to its six-month closure for a massive rehabilitation in 2018.
The island, the country’s top tourist destination, posted 941,868 tourist arrivals last year – way below the 2,001,974 visitors it attracted in 2017, data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 6 showed.
Boracay was closed to tourism activities from April 26 to Oct. 25, 2018. President Rodrigo Duterte called it a cesspool due to untreated wastewater.
DOT-6 director Helen Catalbas expressed confidence Boracay would bounce back this year, noting the big improvement in the island’s environment – water quality, beach cleanliness, waste disposal, road network, and mode of transport, among others.
“We are also expecting some municipalities (with alternative tourism sites) to narrow the gap between the 2017 and 2018 tourist arrivals. Many of those who were not able to go to Boracay diverted to Buruanga or New Washington in Aklan or to Anini-y, Antique or Guimaras,” she said.
Of the 941,868 Boracay visitors last year, 354,558 were domestic tourists, 565,351 were foreigners and 21,959 were vacationing overseas Filipino workers.
Foreign visitors with the most presence in the island were the Chinese (245,565) and South Koreans (189,578).
DOT-6’s 2018 tourist arrivals target for the whole of Aklan province was 1,689, 577. Partial data submitted by Aklan municipalities showed the number of visitors to have so far reached 1,035,368.
Meanwhile, the number of tourism establishments that have reopened and resumed their operations is nearing 400, according to Catalbas.
“Wala pa ‘na labot ang mga travel agencies, ang mga souvenirs shops and others,” she said.
She also said the government is bent on keeping the “carrying capacity” of Boracay as determined by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – 19,215 tourists per day.
Before entering Boracay tourists are required to present reservation slips or proof of bookings in DOT-accredited accommodation establishments. “No booking, no entry” is the policy to regulate the entry of tourists.
In an advisory, the Boracay rehabilitation interagency task force led by DENR urged the public not to transact with establishments that have not yet secured the necessary clearances, permits and/or accreditation from the DOT, DENR and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Non-compliant establishments soliciting and/or accepting booking reservations (despite the lack of clearance to open) may be subjected to civil suits for deception.
Smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages are no longer allowed along the White Beach.
The “Laboracay” annual Labor Day party is banned while diving in waters surrounding island is temporarily prohibited.
All water sports and water activities are also temporarily suspended.
Dining by the beach and installation of electric lights on the beachfront is prohibited while fireworks displays are allowed only until 9 p.m.
The famous sandcastle-making in the beachfront is also being regulated.
Souvenir shops and hawkers along beachfront are now banned and fire dancing that uses kerosene is disallowed.
Casinos are banned frIme soom the island, too./PN