By Buddy Recio
DOT Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo just debunked news circulating that the temporary closure of Boracay will cause huge losses in tourism revenue and job loss for employees in the island.
“In terms of foreign tourists arrivals, it is Cebu with around 2,264,042 while Boracay only gets less than half of that with 986,920,” Teo revealed during a press conference today.
And while the decision to close the island took many tour operators by surprise, re-bookings were not much of a concern in general.
“Cebu has gotten a bulk of the re-bookings,” said Teo while stating figure from top tour operators who imparted to her office that they have rebooked their groups to other destinations like Palawan and Bohol.
Other destinations cash in on Boracay’s temporary closure
A survey made by Travel Update with tour operators reflected the diversity of the Philippines especially when it comes to beaches.
Three other popular attractions lorded it over the rest with Palawan, leading the places where tourists rebooked their itineraries followed by Bohol and Cebu. Palawan has the St. Paul Subterranean River and adjoining beaches, Coron and El Nido. Cebu, on the other hand, has the metropolitan attraction as well as beaches just 40 minutes away in Mactan. Bohol has natural attractions and diving sites to complement its own beaches.
Boracay was ordered closed by President Rodrigo Duterte for six months starting April 26 in order to rehabilitate its ecosystem damaged by illegal structures and overdevelopment, with resorts encroaching on agricultural and forestlands.
Besides the fact that it is high season, most hotels in Bohol, Palawan, and even Metro Manila are full, according to Cebu travel agents which was echoed by Manila operators as well.
“I was able to move my Boracay group to Coron,”said Rene Lazaro of Infinite Travel.
But not all is well as some tour operators were hit with cancellations and no rebookings especially those with hard blockings of hotel rooms for the Korean market that is a year in advance. Koreans are the number one tourists in the country with 1.47 million arrivals last year. For those selling to European travelers, it would take some creative shuffling of their itinerary as Boracay is almost always part of their multiple destinations.
DOT London Tourism Attaché Gerry Panga remarked that the DOT UK office is pushing for new destinations like Guimaras island in Iloilo and Caramoan in Legazpi (Bicol region) while Banaue,Laoag and Vigan, and Clark/Pinatubo remain a staple product. Maria Leona Nepomuceno, tourism attaché for West Japan, for her part, mentioned that Boracay is not too popular with the Japanese so the closure was not much of an issue.
Other destinations that were offered for rebooking and had some success were Siargao, Sicogon, Puerto Galera, Zambales, Laoag/Vigan, Batanes, Davao, and Kalanggaman Island in Leyte.