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Boracay tourist arrivals reach record high in March

/ 05:35 AM April 05, 2022
Tourists take their spots on Boracay Island’s white beach on March 6. STORY: Boracay tourist arrivals reach record high in March

SUMMER CROWD | Tourists take their spots on Boracay Island’s white beach on March 6, 2022, as hotels, restaurants and other establishments enjoy good business with the surge of visitors this month. (Photo by JACK JARILLA)

ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — Tourist arrivals on Boracay Island reached 150,597 last month or a daily average of 4,858, the highest in two years since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020.

But the number of foreign visitors remained low, more than a month after fully vaccinated tourists from visa-free countries were allowed to enter the Philippines.

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Most of the visitors to the island — or 146,440 — were domestic tourists while Filipinos based overseas accounted for 1,624 of the total. Foreign tourists, who comprised at least half of the tourist arrivals on the island before the pandemic, numbered 2,533 or 1.68 percent.

Last month’s tourist arrivals were only slightly lower than pre-pandemic figures — 160,070 in January 2020 and 103,834 in the following month — based on data from the tourism office of Malay town in Aklan province, which has jurisdiction over the island.

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Critical to recovery

The entry of more foreign visitors is considered critical to the recovery of Boracay’s economy as they generally stay longer and spend more when visiting the island, officials said.

Last month, most of the foreign visitors were from the United States (603), followed by the United Kingdom (211), United Arab Emirates (201), Germany (161) and Canada (137).

Councilor Nenette Aguirre-Graf, chair of the Malay municipal council’s tourism committee, said that travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in Hong Kong and China were hindering the arrival of more tourists from these countries, two of Boracay’s main tourist markets.

Korean market tapped

Graf added that they expected more Korean tourists to visit the island in the coming months.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) earlier reported that foreign tourist arrivals in the Philippines reached 102,031 as of March 16.

“We are happy to see the gradual reopening of our borders finally bearing fruit as evidenced by the much higher foreign visitor arrivals. This will help safeguard the industry’s revival, providing more jobs and livelihoods to Filipinos in the tourism sector,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said in a statement.

Puyat met with Korean tourism stakeholders in Seoul last week as part of the DOT’s effort to boost arrivals from the East Asian country.

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“The Philippines is more than ready to welcome our Korean tourists. Our entry requirements are one of the safest and most relaxed in Asia,” she said.

“It is understandable that some may still be reluctant to travel amid the pandemic but let me reassure you that the Philippine government and tourism industry have instituted measures to keep everyone safe,” Puyat added.

Before the pandemic, South Korea was the Philippines’ biggest tourist market with 1.98 million visitors in 2019.

Since February this year, only 5,551 South Koreans have arrived in the country, the DOT said.

Puyat, in a radio interview, said that more South Korean airline carriers were planning chartered flights to the Philippines.

She said that many Koreans were keen on visiting popular tourist destinations like Cebu, Boracay and the Clark Freeport.

Puyat led the DOT delegation which met with Korean tour operators like Kyowon KRT, Modu Tours and Hana Tours and representatives of government agencies like the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Industry and Energy.

The Philippine delegation also met with representatives from the aviation industry, including Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Asiana, Air Seoul, T’way, Jin Air, Jeju Air and Fly Gangwon.

Puyat pitched the Philippines’ newest tourism products and activities that would likely appeal to the Korean travel market in the new normal.

According to her, these included travel products and experiences that highlight culinary, history, nature, wellness and farm tourism.

She also informed Korean tourism officials and executives of the DOT’s “It’s More Fun with You” campaign aimed at welcoming back foreign visitors to the Philippines.

“In this campaign, we highlight the preparations that our tourism industry has carried out while travel was put on hold. We will also feature the exciting destinations to visit, activities to experience, and culinary wonders to try. We have missed you; our destinations have also missed you, and the Philippines would certainly be more fun if you come and visit us,” Puyat said.

—WITH A REPORT FROM TINA G. SANTOS

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