A foreign tourist takes a photo with a local vendor as she waits for her fellow passengers to disembark from a pump boat at Boracay Island. CHOOSE PHILIPPINES

MANILA – Getting foreign tourists to come visit Boracay after diverting them to other destinations during the closure will not be simple, according to Philippine Tour Operators Association Inc. (PHILTOA) president Cesar Cruz.

Cruz made the statement in an interview on GMA News TV’s News to Go on Friday, days after it was announced that President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the closure of Boracay for six months.

At the recommendation of three government agencies, the world-famous vacation spot will not be receiving tourists beginning April 26.

With the period covering months with the most tourist arrivals on the island, among the solutions proposed earlier by the government was to refer them to other tourist destinations.

But Cruz said not all of these destinations would be ready for the influx, adding it could lead to the tourists’ distaste.

Sinabi nating sarado ‘yung Boracay, may papayag, pero may kwarto ba r’un? At kung may kuwarto, siguradong napakamahal kasi sa law of supply and demand. So finally, baka mag-decide sila na, ‘wag na lang ang Pilipinas and then they go out and this is for the benefit of our regional neighbors,” he said.

Cruz added there would also be difficulty in “winning back” foreign visitors after the closure, particularly those in the regional market such as Koreans.

“‘Yung local market natin, madali silang ma-recover pero ‘yung foreign market, which is the regional and the long-haul market, ang cancellation already reaches up to 2019,” he said.

“Mind you, Korea alone has already 2 million arrivals…Can you imagine if this Korean market would go to Vietnam and other destinations. Winning them back is not easy also,” he added.

Along with other associations of stakeholders, PHILTOA said called for further justification for the closure, as well as clarification on the revamp’s timeline, policies and framework, asking for it to be adjusted to cover a shorter period.

PHILTOA also condemned the plan to construct a major casino amid the closure that was introduced as a strategy to forego major rehabilitation on the island after Duterte called it a “cesspool” in February.

Siguro naman, kasukdulan na ‘yan ng pagiging unfair. Boracay needs subtraction – not addition – in terms of infrastructure and in terms of tourist…foot traffic,” Cruz said.

“Putting (a) casino in the area, tapos sasabihin natin, heto tayo ngayon, parang contradictory…Hopefully, the undersecretary of the DILG has said that ‘no, it will not happen.’ Hopefully, he’ll be true to his word. But if this will happen, then it’s a very, very questionable move,” he added. (GMA News)

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