Boracay sees spike in tourism numbers
ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic struck last year, Boracay Island saw its highest number of leisure travelers in June, giving local business operators and residents hope that the island’s tourism industry, its lifeblood, is starting to rebound.
Tourist arrivals in Boracay reached 26,354 in June, based on data from the municipal tourism office of Malay in Aklan province, where Boracay is located.
The optimism was further fueled by the arrival on Saturday of some 3,000 COVID-19 vaccines intended for tourism workers on the island amid an increasing number of tourists.
Last month’s tourist arrivals were the highest since March 2020, when 36,434 visitors went to Boracay during that month before the island was closed to tourists due to travel restrictions and health concerns.
The bulk of June’s tourists were from Metro Manila, reaching 16,855, followed by Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) with 5,757 and Central Luzon with 1,989.Tourists from Western Visayas were allowed to visit Boracay on June 16, 2020, and from other areas in the country starting Oct. 1 last year.
Tourist arrivals had started to pick up starting in November last year but a lockdown imposed on Metro Manila and neighboring provinces resulted in another slump in the number of visitors going to the island.
Flights between Metro Manila and Malay town resumed on June 3, leading to an influx of tourists.
While still way below the prepandemic tourist arrivals, ranging from 120,694 to 222,330 per month in 2019, the upswing in leisure travelers has been a cause for optimism for residents and business owners.
Locals were hopeful that foreign tourists, who comprise about half of prepandemic tourist arrivals, would soon be allowed to visit Boracay through the international “travel bubbles.”
“We are hopeful that we can open to the international travel bubble market [soon],” said Malay Councilor Nenette Aguirre-Graf, chair of the municipal council’s tourism committee.Tourism or travel bubbles or corridors during the pandemic are exclusive agreements between or among areas that have a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases allowing travel by easing restrictions, including opening their respective borders.
Key to recovery
Business owners have said that the return of foreign tourists to Boracay was key in the recovery of the island’s P58.18-billion tourism industry, which has been devastated by the prolonged lockdown and travel restrictions.
Boracay lost at least P49 billion in potential tourism revenues in 2020. Most of the 30,000 workers on the island were affected.
Business owners and residents also welcomed the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
The inoculation of Boracay’s residents and tourism workers will significantly help restore the confidence of tourists to travel to the island, Graf said.
—NESTOR P. BURGOS JR. INQ
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